Updated: 02/11/2014 4:35 PM
Created: 02/11/2014 3:01 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart
The highest record of heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County has increased from 54 to 56 following the conclusion of pending investigations from health officials.
Moreover, the opiate-overdose trend is continuing for 2014, as there were already four deaths from heroin in January, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.
The initial 2013 number was the highest number on record, department spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said. There is no known demographic, as the deaths seem to span all ages and ethnicities.
A bill has been introduced to combat the overdoses by allowing more first responders to carry a heroin antidote to administer on-scene.
There will also be an education meeting held by the sheriff's office on March 18 at the Shilo Temple International Ministry in Minneapolis for parents and residents to learn more about drugs and prevention.
In 2008, the total number of deaths was six, Johnson said. The turning point seemed to be 2011, with the death total rising to 22 and steadily increasing to 37 in 2012.
The sheriff's office warns the heroin found in the Twin Cities has one of the highest purity levels in the United States. The combination of a low cost and high potency is contributing to overdose deaths because new users are unaware of how strong the drug is.
There is a correlation between prescription drug abuse and heroin overdose, as people who become dependent tend to seek out the illegal drug when their prescriptions run out because of the similar opiate high.