Chesterton Tribune



Heroin deaths up 78 percent in 2013 in Porter County

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Heroin-related deaths were on the rise last year in Porter County, although the overall number of accidental overdose and drug-related deaths remained stable.

Suicides were way down, however, after spiking in 2012.

And motor vehicle fatalities were near a 19-year low.

Those are the trends revealed by Coroner Chuck Harris’ recently released 2013 report.

Begin with accidental overdose and drug-related deaths. There were 26 last year, the same number as in 2012.

Confirmed or suspected heroin-related deaths, though, rose to 16 in 2013, from nine in 2012, an increase of 78 percent. Heroin-related deaths, by way of contrast, totaled 19 in 2011 and 18 in 2010.

Of the 16 heroin-related fatalities, all but two victims were males. The victim’s average age was 29 but seven of them--nearly half--were 25 or younger, one of them 20 years of age and three of them 21. Six or 38 percent of the victims were Dunelanders.

Of the remaining 10 drug-related deaths, eight involved prescription medications, often in combination with other drugs. One victim died after ingesting a synthetic drug; another of cardiovascular collapse related to methamphetamine use.

“It is my opinion that this ‘silent epidemic’ will continue to escalate,” Harris said. “At this time we are living in a sea of drugs and our younger generation is drowning in it. One of the reasons for the increase in the use of heroin is that while the purity of heroin has increased, the cost has dropped to nearly a third of what it cost five years ago. Heroin users can purchase a ‘fix’ of heroin for about the cost of a six pack of beer.”

“A large percentage of heroin abusers are young Caucasian males from middle-class families,” Harris noted. “Many begin abusing opiate-based controlled prescription medication drugs which escalates to heroin use. This is a focal reason why parents should keep prescription medications in a secure location or at least keep track of the number of pills.”

“I believe the number of deaths will only decrease when we see a comprehensive countywide response to addiction that incorporates community-based education, detoxification, aftercare, counseling, family support, and rehabilitation,” Harris added. “We urge young people to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, but national surveys show us that substance use is common among high-school students and most young people accept it as part of teenage social life. If we ignore the reality of teen drug use and fail to provide young people with honest, informative drug education, we increase their risk of falling into abusive patterns.”


After an enormous increase of suicides in 2012--39, the most in any year in Porter County since at least 1995--the number dropped in 2013 to 24, 38-percent decrease. The average number of suicides in each of the last 19 years: 21.

Ten of last year’s suicides or 38 percent were committed in Duneland. Seven of the victims shot themselves; four overdosed on drugs; four walked into traffic.

“I believe some of the decrease in this rate can be attributed to mental health facilities, such as Porter-Starke Services, reaching out to people in need and effectively treating them,” Harris said. “There is no cookie-cutter reason why people choose this option, but we as a community should feel fortunate to have the local resources to address different aspects of mental health disorders.”


* In 2013 11 people died in motor vehicle accidents, compared to nine in 2012, an increase of 22 percent. Those 11 fatalities, however, were the third fewest in 19 years, after the nine in 2012 and eight in 1997. The highest number of MVA fatalities over the last 19 years: 36 in 2004. The average number of MVA fatalities over the last 19 years: 22.

* Two pedestrians died in MVAs in 2013, compared to none in 2012, two in 2011, and three in 2010.

* One person died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a house fire in Portage.

* One person died after falling from a bicycle in Valparaiso.

* An elderly man died of positional asphyxia in Chesterton.

* There were no drownings in 2013, compared to four in 2012 and 2011 and one in 2009. The highest number of drownings in the last 19 years: eight in 1995.


There was a single homicide reported in 2013: that of an Akron, Ind., man found shot to death in a ditch near Hebron.

Five homicides were reported in 2012 and 2011. The most in any of the last 19 years: six in 2001.

Posted 3/28/2014




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