Will County officials last week noted a sad statistic: the year's 31st fatal heroin overdose exceeded last year's total.
Each year, the death toll from heroin use in Will County has risen. Between 1992 and 1998, the county saw just a single death each year. It's been on the rise ever since, the Joliet Herald News reported. There were five in 1999, 14 in 2000, 15 in 2005 and 26 in 2010.
Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil said toxicology reports are still pending on a number of deaths and said he fears the number by year's end could reach 50.
O'Neil's observations appear to echo what Roosevelt University researchers concluded in a report two years ago: heroin use in the Chicago area has steadily increased and may be more prevalent here than anywhere else in the country.
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of Illinois residents treated for heroin abuse skyrocketed from about 4,000 to over 17,000, researchers found. The director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy said the number of suburban kids overdosing on heroin more than doubled in two years between 2008 and 2010.
But O'Neil says there's no demographic criteria to what he's seeing. While men are leading women 2 to 1, victims have included whites, blacks and Hispanics ranging in age from 18 to 65.
Only traffic accidents caused more unnatural deaths in Will County than heroin last year.
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