Are We Living on the Heroin Highway

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

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 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. 


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Posted: February 19th, 2013 9:53 PM

lin, It's not just cleaning up Oak Park that's the issue, but dealing with the gangs and cartels that supply these drugs. You can keep taking dealers off the streets, but gangs will have 100 other bodies in line to take up the position on the corner. We need to address the gang problem in Chicago, and we need to address the cartel problem that is developing in the Midwest and the nation. I only hope the government will address this with seriousness, but Rahm is not doing much.

lin from oak park  

Posted: February 9th, 2013 6:16 AM

Public drug use is really on the rise- Crack on the Blue Line, smoking weed on the Blue Line and at the El stops -- they cleaned up Times Square why can't they clean up Oak Park?- if the cops aren't being paid off what is the explanation?


Posted: February 9th, 2013 3:58 AM

Yes, Oak Park AND pretty much every other suburb around Chicago need to take this seriously. Gone are the days where moving to the suburbs means escaping the realities of city life. I'm glad Oak Park is openly addressing this, which is more than I can say for a few rich communities north and west of here. Dealers are going to deal, as long as there is a market. Make sure you and your kids are educated about drugs, and take care of your emotional health, so they don't turn to drugs.

MickeyD from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2013 5:22 AM

Thanks for being open and honest about a topic most in Oak Park would rather ignore. Maybe if we could shut down the operation in the parking lot of McDonalds on Madison Street -- ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE POLICE STATION -- we would have fewer problems in Oak Park. It has gone on too long.

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