Pubdate: Sat, 14 Apr 2012
Source: Herald News (IL)
Copyright: 2012 The Herald News


You'd never have thought heroin addiction would come to torment teens 
in the suburbs. We all know it's an inner-city scourge, a street drug.

That comforting but errant presumption has gotten in the way of 
facing the problem. As our stories this past week revealed, heroin 
use in South Cook and Will counties has become an epidemic - one that 
has found teenagers more susceptible than adults, allowing it to stay 
hidden longer than most plagues.

While adult heroin use has stayed level for several years, the amount 
of heroin pumped into the drug pipeline has grown. In 2010, in the 
west suburban counties ringing Chicago, nine people died from a 
heroin overdose. Just a year later, that number ballooned to 94.

New markets mean new profits. Teens and young adults are the targets 
because heroin is relatively cheap. A dose of prescription opiates 
might cost $40. For the too-many of them who've dabbled in 
prescription drugs, heroin has become the next step.

Teens and young adults are more prone to heroin overdoses because of 
who they are - young, reckless and mostly misinformed. Experts 
believe that they are overdosing more often because of a mistaken 
view that snorting heroin is safer than injecting it.

What to do? As we should have learned with other forms of drug abuse, 
incarcerating users is not much of an answer. It fills jails and 
prisons but does little to address the root causes of the addiction.

Imprisoning a young person for heroin use is the surest statistical 
way of guaranteeing he will be back in prison again.

Cook and Will counties wisely have adopted drug courts that offer 
counseling, education and rehab rather than incarceration for 
non-violent offenders. This is not crime and punishment. It's 
addiction and repair.

But the best cure for heroin addiction is to never get hooked. If 
you're a parent, pay close attention. Watch for signs that your 
child's ability to deal with life has changed.

If you're a teen, consider this message. Heroin is a demon like few 
others. You can't trick it, and it can kill you. We hope you never forget that.
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