After a relatively calm start to spring, three people have died of suspected opiate overdoses in Lake County over the last 48 hours, Lake County Coroner Dr. Mark Komar said May 11.

“Suddenly, heroin has really smacked Lake County,” he said. “There is some powerful stuff out there. I have heard from the hospitals this week that up to 10 people were hospitalized for overdoses who did not die. Heroin slowed down in March, but it’s coming back with a vengeance. Instead of getting better and dying out like most epidemics do, this is getting worse.”

This week’s fatal overdose victims were a 27-year-old male, a 38-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man.

“The ages are all over the place,” the coroner said.

Komar added that it’s too soon to determine whether the overdoses were connected to the same batch or whether the victims’ drugs were laced with the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl or a designer analog of fentanyl.

“Everybody’s calling it heroin. You think it’s heroin, but it’s not heroin,” Komar said. “It’s more powerful than that. If you try it, it will kill you. It’s dangerous to use these drugs. These drugs can kill you because you don’t know the dose you’re getting, or what you’re getting.”

Last year, Lake County had 84 total overdose deaths. So far this year, there have been more than 20 drug fatalities.

“We are on track to meet last year’s numbers,” the coroner added.

Although he previously spent eight years as the county’s deputy coroner, Komar said he has been shocked at the number of people who managed to keep their drug use a secret from those closest to them until an overdose.

“They’re not just derelicts,” he said. “These people who are dying are not just people you picture as drug addicts. I’m not sure if they are experimenting or what, but there are a subset of folks using who are your neighbors or producing members of our society. I interview (overdose victims’) families and co-workers who couldn’t even imagine they used these drugs.”

Published by the News-Herald