Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Tona Kunz, Daily Herald Staff Writer


The latest battleground where the war against Ecstasy and other club
drugs will be waged is college campuses.

Local officials say about 10 percent of college students use the
drugs, and they expect more to pick up the habit as the drugs become
easier to get.

"I think that in a few months, we will see more of it," said Michael
Cooke, director of the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group. To try
to curb use, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has picked nine areas in the state
to share $500,000 for campus prevention programs.

DuPage and DeKalb are the only counties in Northern Illinois picked to
join the "Project X" initiative, which kicks off today with televised
public service announcements and visits to area campuses.

Getting that message across now is crucial, before drug usage returns
to the peak levels of 2000, officials said.

In 2000, 269 people were treated in suburban emergency rooms for club
drugs, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Police departments
were reporting teenage dealers who could unload 1,000 pills a day each.

Recent Ecstasy busts in Aurora and Geneva, as well as anecdotal
evidence from area police and health officials, point to a repeat of

"It is on its way," said Jennifer Redmond, an outreach specialist with
Breaking Free Inc., a substance abuse clinic in Naperville that will
work with North Central College in Naperville.

"We are beginning to see, unfortunately, some signs of Ecstasy use and
date-rape drugs on our campuses, as are other campuses," said Gary
Ireland, dean of students at North Central College.

College drug prevention programs in the past were aimed at other drugs
that made it noticeably difficult to stay in college, such as heroin
and cocaine.

"They can do (club drugs) on the weekend and function on Monday," said
Lora Windsor, counselor for Breaking Free. "But I don't know how long
they will stay in school."

Officials hope the new education campaign will succeed where others
have failed because it will have an extra message.

"Get out of it now, because there are only two destinations: the
graveyard or the penitentiary,'" DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph
Birkett said.

Birkett fought to toughen penalties for dealers in fatal drug
overdoses after the 2000 death of Sara Aeschlimann, an 18-year-old
Naperville Central senior who overdosed on PMA, an Ecstasy look-alike
drug. A month later, 20-year-old Jason Burnett of Lisle also overdosed
on PMA.

In 2002, Illinois reduced from 200 to 15 the number of pills needed to
qualify as a felony, punishable by six to 30 years in prison, Birkett

The new law also allows prosecutors to charge someone with
drug-induced homicide even if they only gave the victim one pill.

On Monday, a Lake County judge sentenced a 27-year-old man to 20 years
in prison for the drug overdose death of 19-year-old Nicole LeVin.
Joshua Boand of Barrington was convicted of giving LeVin a fatal dose
of methadone and stood by and did nothing when it was clear she needed

Officials fear the end is near for the drop in supply of club drugs
brought on by increased security after Sept. 11.

"The teens I work with can't seem to comprehend the dangers of taking
a pill," Windsor said. "I think we learn if you want to feel better
you take a pill. It is part of our culture. It just naturally follows
that the drug of choice would be a pill."

Also receiving grants were College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Elmhurst
College and Benedictine University in Lisle. The Ben Gordon Center, a
substance abuse clinic in Sycamore, got a grant to work with Northern
Illinois University in DeKalb and Kishwaukee College in Malta.

Project X: Campaign also stresses legal price 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake