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Howard County sets deadly record for drug overdose deaths

KOKOMO, Ind. – Howard County has set a deadly new record. There have already been 37 overdose deaths this year.

“You are taking a gamble when you use these substances,” said Howard County Coroner Dr. Steven Seele. “You do not know what you are really getting and you do not know what the strength or milligrams is.”

In 2015, the county saw 34 overdose deaths. In 2016, the number was even lower at 24.

Dr. Seele says part of the reason for the spike this year is synthetic drugs like spice, bath salts and chemi.

“I think that one of the things that I’m seeing is the move to synthetic drugs that are manufactured in labs and also shipped in from foreign sources,” said Dr. Seele.

Dr. Seele says it takes hours of work and lab tests to find out what chemicals are in the synthetic drug mixes.

“It can be anything. It can be rat poison,” said Dr. Seele.

The coroner and his team are stretched thin, dedicating all of their resources to the growing trend of overdose deaths. The county is also spending lots of cash to find out what types of illicit drugs people are using.

“Over $61,000 in autopsy and toxicology fees,” said Dr. Seele.

With the synthetic drugs still out on the streets, the Howard County Coroner’s Office is expecting to see more overdose deaths in the coming days.

Dr. Seele says he is also working with city and state officials to combat the ongoing problem.