Heroin use is a growing epidemic in DuPage County. There is no demographic or community that is immune from this. From young teenagers to those in their 60's, DuPage County has averaged 1 heroin death every 8.5 days over a recent 20 month period.
Heroin found in the area today is so pure that it doesn't need to be injected to be effective. Users frequently begin use by snorting the powder. The social stigma of "shooting up" with a needle that was present years ago is no longer there. It is easy to find, cheap (about $10 per dose), and deadly.
Research is now finding that many of the new heroin abusers began taking legal and prescribed pain medications. Once the prescriptions run out and the user cannot afford pills on the street or other means of acquisition (doctor shopping), the easy availability of heroin and the extremely low cost makes buying this drug a means to satisfy an addiction. Once someone tries heroin, the addiction rates and likelihood of ending in death or imprisonment are staggering. It can take one time and users are hooked. Many times, no level of willpower can stop this addiction before their life has spiraled out of control and it is too late to save a person. The rest of their life frequently becomes a series of rehab stints, followed by relapse, back to rehab, etc...
Some users are also beginning their addiction by experimenting with medicines that were prescribed to someone else in their house. Anyone with the types of medications in their house listed under item #4 below should ensure that there are safeguards in place to make sure these medications are not easily accessible to others in their house.
The recent deaths in our area are not from families where there was a lack of structure or support. It is not "bad parenting" that lead these people down the road of addiction. Many of these victims are from higher income, parental involved, academic achievers, and "the last person you thought would have gotten involved in heroin." Instead of thinking that it can't happen in our family, we need to educate our families with additional means of support. We can help even the strongest of support systems with additional ways to prevent and educate about the dangers of drug use.
The Wood Dale Police Department is approaching this growing epidemic in our area with a number of different resources. Make no mistake...although Wood Dale is one of the few towns that have not experienced a heroin overdose death in the last two years, we have had several overdose medical calls that could have resulted in death, and there are a number of known heroin users in Wood Dale and surrounding communities.
Among the many paths we are taking to combat heroin use in Wood Dale and DuPage County as a member of the DuPage County Chief's of Police Heroin Task Force include:
#1 - While our enforcement efforts are active and ongoing, including being one of the agencies involved in the first heroin case prosecuted under state RICO statutes, there is no way we can enforce our way out of this problem. Enforcement is an important part, but must be combined with education and prevention. Below is a video of the news conference from the arrests.
#2 - The Wood Dale Police Department has hosted several community education events regarding the heroin epidemic. In addition, we have presented a prevention program to every student in Fenton High School. A presentation has also been conducted in Spanish for those parents who do not speak English. These events will continue to be held in the future.
#3 - Wood Dale was one of the pilot agencies of the DuPage Narcan Program, and a continuing member of this lifesaving effort. This is a program where our police officers are trained to administer naloxone (Narcan) to those suffering an overdose. Naloxone is an immediate and potentially lifesaving drug that interrupts the opiate receptors in the brain and can bring someone suffering an overdose out of this condition within seconds, and they can be treated and transported to a hospital. The hope is that they will have one more chance to receive rehabilitation and recovery. This will be the first program for police officers in Illinois. Click on the link below to see the latest annual report on the Narcan Program.
To date, the DuPage Narcan program has successfully saved 500 residents in DuPage County, including several from Wood Dale, from potentially fatal overdoses, giving them another chance at rehabilitation.
#4 - The DuPage Chief's of Police Association, along with DuPage Health Department officials, continue to work with the local prescribers of pain medication (doctors, dentists, etc.) to educate them about the possible negative consequences of the over-prescribing of opiate based pain medicatations where situations could be treated with other non-opiate based pain medications. Opiate based pain medications that have been identified as being abused include: Vicodin, Norco (hycrocodone), Oxycontin, Percocet (oxycodone), Duragesic (fentanyl), Dilaudid, Exalgo (hydromorphone) and Astramorph, Avinza (morphine). There are frequently situations where these types of prescriptions may be used without incident, but we feel it is important that prescribers are aware of the growing trend of overuse and eventual overdose or progression to heroin.
#5 - As part of the education effort, a video has been produced of an interview with a recovering heroin addict from DuPage County. Nick was a successful athlete, a family person, and began his road to addiction after receiving a opiate based prescription after suffering a sports injury. He didn't wake up one day and decide to try heroin. The video is seen below and is an important segment for you to watch. At approximately 30 minutes long, take the time to hear what he and his mom went through. Their story is compelling. Maybe this can save the life of someone you love. This video will be broadcast on our local channels, and Nick will be participating in the community education events throughout the county.
There are a number of resources available to provide you with further information. Please click on any of the links below: