Pubdate: Sat, 08 Jan 2005
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Bob Susnjara, Daily Herald Staff Writer


Increased heroin use by suburban young adults is helping create giant 
profits for Osama bin Laden, one of the world's largest dealers of the 
drug, federal officials say.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park said he'll lead a five-man 
delegation next week to Afghanistan as part of an effort to reduce heroin 
flow into this country. Bin Laden's al-Qaida operatives sell Afghan heroin, 
he said.

Afghanistan produces about 75 percent of the world's heroin, according to 
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Bin Laden and other terrorists are part of an Afghan heroin trade that's 
projected to spiral from $2.5 billion to $7 billion in annual profits this 
year, Kirk said during a news conference in his Deerfield office Friday.

"At some stage," Kirk said, "the terrorist organizations might be in the 
market for a nuclear weapon with that kind of money."

U.S. officials have committed about $700 million to derail Afghanistan's 
heroin production. Kirk and his entourage plan to meet with DEA and State 
Department officials in Afghanistan next week.

Kirk said the anti-heroin effort will involve steering Afghan farmers from 
growing opium poppies, which are used for heroin, in favor of wheat and 
exotic spices. He said there are plans to boost the number of DEA agents in 
Afghanistan from three to 15.

Officials said heroin use is a concern in the Chicago area. The region 
ranked No. 2 in the country with 352 heroin deaths in 2001, behind only 
Philadelphia's 391.

Heroin deaths in the Chicago area increased by 57 percent from 1996 to 
2001, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

Although he didn't have precise figures, Terry Lemming, chief drug 
coordinator for the Illinois State Police, said a Roosevelt University 
study shows heroin use quadrupled in the collar counties in the past 10 
years. Cook County heroin use has doubled, he said.

Lemming said most heroin users are young adults from the suburbs who don't 
look like stereotypical junkies.

"I (used to) think of an emaciated man with a rubber band around his arm," 
he said.

Joanna Bowersmith, 23, was a young heroin addict. She entered a drug 
rehabilitation facility and has been sober for about five years.

Bowersmith, now a counselor at Family and Adolescence In Recovery in 
Rolling Meadows, said suburban teenagers are prone to seek heroin because 
they have the money and it's easier to buy than alcohol.

She recalled how her heroin habit cost up to $100 daily, while her 
ex-boyfriend in Naperville spent $300 to $500. Bowersmith said her former 
boyfriend and teens in Naperville would claim they were going shopping to 
get the heroin cash from their parents.

Meanwhile, state police reported Friday that arrests and hospitalizations 
related to the club drug ecstasy have declined in the past two years.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman