By Melissa Ford
Submitted by Kristine Raino-Ogden
Parents And Community Together to reduce youth alcohol & drug use
I-290, Roosevelt Road and I-88 are often referred to as the Heroin Highways. They link heroin users in the suburbs to suppliers in Chicago. And according to a 2011 study conducted by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy of Roosevelt University, Chicago and its suburbs are home to the nation's worst heroin problems. And while heroin overdoses and rehab are declining in the city of Chicago, they are increasing among those under 30 who live in the suburbs.*
At a recent IMP.A.C.T. Parent Cafe, several parents expressed concern about heroin use in Oak Park and River Forest. You may be aware that in 2011, two high-school aged kids in Oak Park died of heroin overdoses. Like other communities, use is on the rise here as well.
According to the 2012 Illinois Youth Survey that Districts 200, 97 and 90 participated in, the following percentage of students reported using heroin in the year prior to the survey:
2% of 561 twelfth graders (about 11 kids)
1% of 641 tenth graders (about 6 kids)
1% of 123 eighth graders in D90 (about 1)
1% of 440 eighth graders in D97 (about 4)
While that number nowhere reaches the 51% of 12 graders who reported using marijuana or the 76% who used alcohol in the year prior to the survey, it translates to about 22 kids from ages 13 - 18 who used heroin at least once that year.
That is 22 too many.
It is not clear exactly why heroin use is increasing, particularly among young white women, but many attribute it to the fact that the drug is now more "user friendly" - no needles required. Heroin can be smoked, snorted as well as injected, leaving many with the false impression that it is not as addictive or dangerous.
It is clear that better education regarding the dangers of heroin are needed. The Illinois heroin users interviewed in the Roosevelt University study indicated they had little or no education regarding heroin use and dependency. They further indicated that had they known about heroin's addictive and dependency profile, that they would not have begun using.*
So educate yourself and talk with your kids about this dangerous drug. Click here for a quick reference sheet from abovetheinfluence.com. And encourage our schools to do a thorough job of educating our youth about specific drugs without "lumping" them all together.
It's the first step in reversing the trend and shutting down the Heroin Highway in our community.
* Understanding Suburban Heroin Use: Research Findings from the reed Hruby Heroin Prevention Project at the Robert Crown Center for Health Education - Executive Summary, illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, Roosevelt University, 2011.