Heroin abuse surging in Chicago and its suburbs

By scimor · Jun 29, 2010 · Updated Jun 29, 2010 · ·
  1. scimor
    STUDY | Area leads U.S. in ER treatment as suburban deaths soar

    More people in Chicago and its suburbs are admitted to hospital emergency rooms for heroin use than in any other major city, and heroin is now the most common illegal substance for which people in Illinois enter drug treatment, a new study shows.

    In addition, heroin-related deaths have risen sharply in the collar counties, as use of the drug continues to expand among young, white suburbanites.

    These are among the key findings from a report released today by Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy.

    The report -- which is based on federal and state data on admissions to hospitals and drug treatment programs, as well as county death records -- illustrates that heroin is "the most significant illicit drug threat in the Chicago metropolitan area," according to co-authors Stephanie Schmitz and Kathleen Kane-Willis.

    In 2008, there were nearly 24,000 heroin-related hospital admissions in the Chicago area, more than in any of the 12 other cities included in the federal government's Drug Abuse Warning Network. New York and Boston had the next-highest totals.

    "I get five or six heroin addicts per month in my treatment program," said Dr. Jeffrey T. Johnson, medical director of the Behavioral Health Service of Central DuPage Hospital. "Alcohol is still the predominant drug, but with heroin, there's been a rise over the last five years or so."

    Johnson said one reason more people might be seeking treatment is greater availability of naloxone and buprenorphine, replacement drugs that minimize symptoms of withdrawal.

    While heroin users in Chicago tend to be middle-age and black, suburban users are more likely to be under 25 and white, researchers found. Young whites are also much more likely than blacks to inject heroin -- a factor fueling a significant increase in injection drug use in Illinois over the last 10 years, Kane-Willis said.

    In addition, deaths from heroin overdoses in McHenry and Lake counties have more than doubled in the last decade. Cook County, on the other hand, has seen a 16 percent decrease in heroin deaths since 2000, though deaths among white women have increased 40 percent.

    Chicago's status as a transportation hub and the increasing purity of heroin from South America and Mexico make it a cheaply available drug, Kane-Willis said.

    Particularly for suburban youth, heroin has become "trendy and exciting," and Internet sites make it easier to find, she said.

    John Roberts, a retired Chicago Police officer whose 19-year-old son Billy died of a heroin overdose last year, said many parents aren't aware of how available heroin is to their children.

    "I know I wasn't," said Roberts, who lives in Homer Glen. "Their kids can try heroin for $10, and if they're lucky, they never try it again."

    But Billy Roberts did try heroin again, and he got hooked. After showing some progress in treatment, Billy died of an overdose in September.

    "He found an inexpensive drug, and he thought he could control it. And you can't," John Roberts said.
    The report recommends putting a larger emphasis on heroin in drug education programs, increasing funding for substance abuse treatment and passing legislation to provide partial or full immunity to people who call 911 to report a drug overdose. Increasing the availability of syringes to injection drug users could also help prevent the spread of HIV and other infections, Kane-Willis said.

    June 28, 2010
    BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter


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  1. dyingtomorrow
    Heroin has become a huge thing in Chicago over the past decade. The main reason for the explosion among suburban white kids is that it is incredibly cheap (at least when you start out without a tolerance), without a doubt the cheapest and best high you can get for your buck, and the powder is very high quality and snortable. Since it is snortable, there isn't the same fear and taboo as with IVing, so kids are more likely to try it. Of course after a while most heroin users move on to IVing. Also, there are dealers everywhere. Probably every 4-5 blocks in half the area surrounding downtown Chicago has someone selling crack or heroin on them. A white person driving around in any black area will have someone yell "rocks (crack) or blows (heroin)" at them within a couple minutes. And there are dealers at a large percentage of the major subway/L lines; it is incredibly quick, easy and cheap to get heroin. Another factor is probably the safety. The streets are very well controlled by the gangs who sell heroin - they are very businesslike about it, and they keep the areas "policed" on their own, so people traveling the ghetto to buy are almost never hassled or robbed (at least during the daytime).

    It's actually such a common drug now that police quite frequently just let heroin addicts/users go, since the jails are getting overcrowded with them. They know there is nothing they can do to stop it, why waste time and money jailing them when it doesn't accomplish anything? From what SWIM has seen and heard, the vast majority of the time, if the police even bother to stop a white person in a heroin area, they will just say "get the fuck out of here" knowing that the person will just come back in 15 minutes anyways. In the past year SWIM's brother got arrested 5-6 times over a couple months for heroin possession (not counting the times they just let him go), and they just straight dropped all the charges every time except the last, because they didn't feel like prosecuting for it. The only reason they even prosecuted the last heroin possession charge is because it was coupled with armed robbery. SWIM is white, and would walk the ghettos in Chicago with impunity for 4 years, the police never even bothered him. It's nice to know that the futility of trying to use draconian measures on heroin addicts is finally sinking in - maybe in the not-so-distant future they will start offering real help to addicts (such as maintenance drugs that are actually fulfilling to most addicts, unlike methadone and buprenorphine).

    So yeah, it is definitely the quickly growing drug of choice in Chicago.

    SWIM also thought it was interesting that they mentioned most of the black heroin users in the ghetto do not inject. SWIM noticed this first hand, of the scores and scores of homeless and ghetto-inhabiting african americans he has met in his years, he only met 1 that actually IVed heroin as opposed to snorted it. Just a strange phenomenon - no clue the reason why.
  2. EscapeDummy

    Very interesting post, dyingtomorrow. It almost sounds too good to be true - high quality, cheap drugs, crime kept in check by the gangs, its available easily everywhere, and the police do not prosecute... sounds almost 'legal'. Sounds almost utopia-like also; this type of thing is the ideal many people have for regulated, legal drugs.
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