DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — Heroin used to be a blight confined to urban areas, but no longer. Heroin’s deadly reach extends to the suburbs and beyond.
As CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports, experts, educators and parents gathered in Downers Grove on Tuesday to discuss how to deal with a growing problem,
At a forum Tuesday night at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, officials unveiled a new study that showed heroin users don’t know the risks associated with the drug. The study, funded by the Robert Crown Health Education Center, was part of the center’s Heroin Prevention Project.
John Roberts, a retired Chicago Police captain, lost his son Billy to a heroin overdose nine years ago at the age of 19. His son was alone at their house in Homer Glen when it happened.
“He made the mistake of thinking he could handle it,” Roberts said. He had moved his family to Homer Glen to escape city crime.
“What I walked into is a terrible problem that’s occurring in all of our collar counties,” Roberts said.
He was on hand Tuesday night as a new study of suburban heroin users was unveiled at a forum in Downers Grove. The study suggested that most young users began by using prescription painkillers.
Kathie Kane-Willis, the study’s chief researcher said most addicts did not understand what they were getting into and that heroin is so powerful that, once they were hooked, they didn’t care.
She quoted one user as saying, “I found going to the West Side exciting. It was a thrill. The chance was that you could get caught, but the reward was that you got your dope.”
The study also said – and Roberts agreed – that school drug programs need to hammer away specifically at the dangers of heroin and how it is deadlier than other drugs.
Rogers remembered the frantic drive to save Billy after his overdose.
“I left Homer Glen. I was already at 111th and Roberts Road and a fire paramedic took the phone from the young man I was speaking to and told me ‘You’ve lost your son,’” Roberts said, adding that he didn’t believe the paramedic at first.
Roberts said he now devotes his entire life to educating young people and their parents about heroin. He said he knows it’s an uphill fight, but it’s one worth fighting.