MERCER COUNTYCoroner says 2 women likely died of heroin overdoses
By Kristen Garrett
Herald Staff Writer
The causes of two suspicious deaths at the beginning of December have been determined, Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle reported.
Linda Arnold, 47, Sharon, died Dec. 1 from an overdose of morphine and opiates, McGonigle said. He said toxicology reports did not indicate heroin but the morphine is an indication her death was heroin-related.
Dr. Fred Harchelroad, chairman of emergency medicine and a toxicologist at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, said the body turns the chemicals found in heroin into morphine. The length of time between when someone took the heroin and the toxicology test would determine whether the results show heroin or morphine in the blood.
A day after Ms. Arnold's death, Debra Chapman, 45, Hermitage, died of what toxicology reports show to be a heroin overdose, McGonigle said.
"We suspect that Ms. Chapman was a recent user," McGonigle said. He said her body may not have built up a level of tolerance to the drug. "I would feel that would play a role in the range in which heroin becomes toxic due to tolerance level."
Harchelroad said the body can build a tolerance to heroin, much like it does to alcohol. He concurred with McGonigle that a new user could overdose more easily than someone who has developed a tolerance for the drug.
McGonigle said "in all likelihood" he believes the drugs Ms. Arnold and Ms. Chapman took came from the same supplier since the deaths were just a day apart.
Another heroin overdose claimed the life of 19-year-old Beau Jon Daughterty of West Salem Township Aug. 4.
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