Published July 30, 2015
Heroin use on the rise, even in Hinsdale
By Pamela Lannom
For parents who believe their kids will not be exposed to heroin here in Hinsdale, Police Chief Brad Bloom has some disturbing news.
The village has had three deaths this year involving drug overdoses, according to reports issued by the DuPage County Coroner’s Office. Two of the deaths involved opiate-based drugs, including heroin.
“This is the most we’ve ever seen, three in one year,” Bloom said. “That’s a lot, and just a little over half of the year is over. The number is concerning for us.”
The three fatalities were of a 49-year-old woman who died in January from a multiple drug overdose and two men in March, one 21-year-old who died of a prescription drug overdose and one 30-year-old who died of an overdose of heroin and ecstasy.
Police are seeing heroin use in other instances as well.
“We’ve had a number of heroin-related overdoses in this community where the victims have been revived,” Bloom said. “We know that a lot of surrounding communities as well have seen an increase in heroin-related incidents and deaths.”
Three months ago, two people in possession of 19 packets of heroin were found at the Hinsdale train station.
“We think they were there at the train station to sell it locally,” Bloom said.
Not long ago, users had to travel to purchase heroin.
“Up to two or three years ago, it was unheard of for (law enforcement) to find any record of anybody selling heroin in DuPage County,” Bloom said. “It was all in the city, on the west side. Kids would go down I-290 and get off in an area called “K Town,” and bring their heroin back. Now we’re seeing numerous cases of heroin being sold within DuPage County, which is alarming.”
He attributes the rise in use to the drug’s lower cost and increased purity.
“Ten dollars is the street cost for a hit of heroin or, as the kids say, a jab,” he said.
Because the drug is more pure, kids can experiment with snorting it first. But they move quickly to injecting it, he said.
“What makes heroin so concerning for us is there’s a very small gap between experimentation and dependency,” Bloom said. “Once you are dependent on this drug, it is very, very difficult to kick the habit.”
Teens can become susceptible to heroin use after taking the opiate-based painkillers often prescribed after oral or orthopedic surgery.
The problem is big enough that the Robert Crown Center for Health Education has developed a program, called “3-Point Advantage,” to train coaches to teach student athletes about the science behind addiction.
The kids who travel the path from pain pills to addiction do not fit the stereotype of an addict.
“The kids that we’re finding in DuPage County are good kids from good families,” Bloom said. “The addictive capability of this drug and the dependency that comes from this drug is like no other drug. That is why it is so concerning for law enforcement.”
Police do have one weapon they can use to combat overdose fatalities. Every officer in Hinsdale carries Naloxone, a generic form of Narcan, to administer in cases of an opiate-based overdose.
“This drug changes the receptors in the brain and immediately reverses the effects of an opiate-based overdose with no harm if it’s used on someone who is not suffering from an overdose,” Bloom said.
The program began as a pilot with five departments, including Hinsdale’s.
“Now every department in the county with the exception of one (Oakbrook Terrace) has signed onto this program,” Bloom said. “It’s been copied throughout the Chicagoland area.”
His best advice to parents is to carefully monitor the use of any opiate-based painkillers that are prescribed or to ask for an alternative drug.
“The research suggests that can lead to heroin use and an addiction to opiate-based painkillers,” he said.