Heroin-related deaths in Milwaukee Co. quickly approaching shocking milestone

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (WITI) -- It is an epidemic that is quickly approaching a shocking milestone. The number of heroin-related deaths in Milwaukee County could soon surpass the total number of heroin-related deaths throughout all of last year. This, with four months left in 2014.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office is dealing with a backlog of toxicology reports related to deaths involving heroin.

"It comes with a good reputation of being the best high you`ve ever had.  Unfortunately, it`s killing people along the way," Toxicology Director Sara Schreiber said.

Every suspected drug-related death must be screened and examined in the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office. With four months left in 2014, the caseload continues to rise.

"Our total last year, we reported 67 heroin-related deaths and so far to date we have 56 I believe," Schreiber said.

Schreiber is seeing victims ranging in age from teenagers to people in their 70s.

"The incidents have been so high and reaching far beyond the inner city.  It`s reaching into the outward communities and all counties of the state," Schreiber said.

Experts say there's a clear reason for that.

"That`s due to the low price of heroin that`s available and the very high degree of purity," Dr. Michael Bohn said.

Dr. Bohn is an addiction psychiatrist at Aurora Psychiatric Hostpial.

"We are now seeing larger numbers of individuals coming from middle class households -- often in suburban areas," Dr. Bohn said.

Dr. Bohn says addicts are using heroin more frequently, and sadly, heroin addiction holds a tighter grip on users than most other drugs.

"Fortunately, with current treatments, we have the best success in treating opiate addiction, including heroin, as we have for any addiction that is common in the United States," Dr. Bohn said.

Medications, counseling and family intervention, along with support groups are often the best course of action for dealing with a drug that continues to take lives.

"This is an addiction that literally destroys people`s lives," Dr. Bohn said.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office has some cases involving possible heroin-related deaths it is investigating. Those cases are pending further testing.

In September 2013, the state's Department of Justice launched a campaign aimed at fighting the spread of heroin and heroin-related crime, as well as helping Wisconsin families overcome heroin addiction’s damaging effects.

CLICK HERE to access "The Fly Effect's" website to learn more about the dangers of heroin, and how to get help.

CLICK HERE to access the "Heroin Awareness" page at the Wisconsin DOJ's website. There, you can take a look at a map, showing heroin cases by county throughout the last three years.

Also available -- resources for those looking for help with a heroin addiction.

Is there hope after heroin? CLICK HERE to watch FOX6's Brad Hicks check in on four heroin addicts, seven years later.