Teens among overdose victims bucks trend

While the sheer volume of 911 calls overwhelmed first-responders in Jennings County, it was another aspect of a sudden spike in heroin overdoses that most bothers the county prosecutor.

“The most alarming development is that most of these overdoses are young adults — including a lot of juveniles,” Jennings County Prosecutor Brian Belding said Wednesday during a news conference to announce 13 heroin overdoses reported in Jennings County.

Four teenagers were among overdose victims. They included one adult, 18-year-old Caleb Barton of North Vernon, who was arrested on possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia. The other young overdose victims included a 17-year-old boy, a 16-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, all from Jennings County.

“When you have victims that young, it’s a situation we have to get on top of pretty quickly,” Lt. Mike Mowery of the Jennings County Sheriff’s Department said.

Prior to Tuesday, an average of one to three drug overdose incidents were being reported weekly among all ages in Jennings County, said Cassie Clement, an addictions specialist for Centerstone’s outpatient clinic in North Vernon.

Statistics indicate that most of the people involved in Jennings County heroin use are well into their 20s and older, Sheriff Gary Driver said.

“We don’t normally see that (teen) age group,” Driver said. “I just think Tuesday was a really odd situation.”

However, fewer clinicians are trained to service teens with drug problems compared to those available to Jennings County adults, Clement said.

Considering the number of minors being raised by parents who are addicted, Clement said it’s not that surprising that more teens may be turning to narcotics.

Another factor is that nearly one out of every five Jennings County residents under the age of 18 lives in poverty, Clement said.

For adults, the escalation of heroin use has been linked with law changes that reduced the availability of often-abused painkiller drugs.

However, there’s a different motivation for young people to take heroin.

With fewer affordable opportunities for part-time jobs and recreation, a number of teens try to alter their reality to escape from it, Clement said.

“Unfortunately, heroin is one of the drugs that’s cheaper to get, lasts longer and gives those effects,” she said.

Availability of the drug antidote Narcan also gives drug users a false confidence that they can take heroin without serious consequences, she said.

How to get help

Centerstone, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of community-based behavioral heath care, has an outpatient facility in North Vernon located at 1260 E. Buckeye St.

Centerstone crises hotline: 800-832-5442

Information or to make an appointment: 800-344-8802

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.