HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - Three Ottawa County men -- all friends -- died over drug overdoses since November of last year. Now, 24 Hour News 8 has learned that the first man who died, Ryan Scholten, had overdosed on the prescription drug, methadone.
Two of Scholten's friends, Cory Dykstra and Jordon Bauer, were found dead of suspected heroin overdoses in February and March. Both men died in the Hudsonville-area home of a fourth man in the circle of friends, Blake Windham. Detectives are now investigating whether Windham provided Dykstra and Bauer with the heroin. Windham is friends with all three of the men who died.
Ryan Scholten, 33, of Hudsonville was found dead in a car in November 2012 from a methadone overdose. Investigators from the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department believe Scholten took his own life
Methadone abuse is a problem West Michigan continues to battle.
In Gun Lake, Lexy Purdum was only 13 years old when she died in 2006 after mixing Vicodin with methadone.
In Caledonia, Michelle Burkhardt's husband, Paul, started using prescription drugs after having a pulled back and a torn shoulder. He went from OxyContin to Vicodin, and in 2006 he overdosed on methadone and died.
Scholten is among the most recent methadone deaths. His death certificate shows he died from a mix of methadone and alprazolam -- or Xanax -- which is used to treat anxiety.
His brother told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Wednesday that he hopes no other family goes through their pain.
Dr. Richard Tooker, the prescription drug abuse prevention coordinator for Allegan County, said we've seen "a dramatic jump in all the opioid medication overdose deaths in West Michigan starting around 2002."
Tooker said methadone, originally used to treat heroin addiction, is now everywhere.
The latest numbers from Kent County show 69 fatal drug overdoses in 2011. Of those, 19 involved methadone.
"So there's a lot of methadone being prescribed. There's a lot of it being diverted and available to people on the streets. And it's a dangerous opioid-type pain medication," said Tooker.
Tooker called the addiction a family disease and a community disorder.
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