Talk About Heroin Now, Avoid an Epidemic Later
There are two ways we can handle news and reports of rising heroin use in this area: a panicked reaction or an effective head-on facing of facts.
The earliest piece of advice I can think of about anything involves recognizing a problem before it becomes a full bore catastrophe.
Have the mechanic look at the car when you hear weird sounds, not when you’re broken down on the road.
Seems simple, but we can be easily swayed. Maybe the initial problem is a little scary. Perhaps the solution appears even more daunting than the problem. Best to wait a little while. Maybe later there’ll be a better way to face this. Right?
Wrong. This needs attention now.
Consolidated High School District 230 decided that two New Year’s deaths of former students, one that may have involved heroin, was reason enough to put out a district-wide call to parents. Sources have also said a former Carl Sandburg High School student died within the last week, and a heroin overdose is suspected.
Area law enforcement and federal agencies said noticeable amounts of a strong type of white powder heroin is making its way through Chicago to the coasts and Canada, but small amounts go out to nearby towns.
Orland Fire Battalion Chief Mike Schofield noticed a rise a few years ago in heroin overdoses. He started In the Blink of an Eye to raise awareness in schools through stories from people who lost loved ones and playing 911 calls.
Palos area police departments have also seen an uptick in heroin related incidents over the past few years, including several recent overdoses.
We’ve identified the problem, so now what does the community do?
First, here’s what not to do.
Reader Donna Freitag, whose kids go to Andrew, noted on Orland Park Patch’s Facebook page that some people simply focused on the sensational and fearful, when they heard District 230’s message.
I saw posts on Facebook that students were putting that there school has a heroin problem or that their parents said they just received a phone call that their school has a heroin problem. Basically to me I felt they were giving Andrew a bad name when it was unwarranted. Or I felt these posts made it look like they thought it was all a big joke.
Within the same response, Freitag also pointed out what she thinks was D230’s message’s true purpose, and I agree.
The letter was intended to inform parents and to have parents, community, teachers and etc. to come together to keep our students and communities safe and to make sure our students make healthy choices. It was not intended to make parents and students elaborate and state that their school has a heroin problem.
What constitutes a “heroin problem,” or an epidemic, or any other description will change depending on whom you talk to. Does it really matter what we call it? The wording won’t solve the problem, and as a community we have a challenge ahead of us.
Fortunately the first step is simple. We need to talk about this.
We need to make it clear to people who have become addicted that there’s no shame in admitting this, and get help. We need to not judge others for succumbing to this drug and others. And we need to not be afraid to approach people if we think they have even the beginning of a problem.
Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said there’s a strong chance people don’t even realize they are doing heroin. The white version, not the brown types area police were encountering more in past years, bears resemblance to cocaine. Powerful addiction sets in far faster with heroin.
That’s just one of several reasons to focus on helping those who need it, rather than alienating them for their actions.
A reader who identified himself as Conor gave us proof that coming forward about addiction can help.
I am a Sandburg graduate class of 2009 and I am a heroin addict. I have been sober for just over a year but the availability of this drug in the south suburbs is out of control. Speaking as an addict a lot of times it’s too embarrassing to ask for help especially with heroin addiction. It is a disease plain and simple.
I think more needs to be done to inform these kids that it’s ok to ask for help with addiction. It took me three rehabs to finally realize if I didn’t stop I was going to die. Too many young people are dying from this disease and there isn’t enough awareness of where to go to get help or where to even start. I have offered to come speak to the students but have been denied every time. I think if they hear it from someone who isn’t that much older than them (I am 21) will really help get through to these kids.
Another reader, Jessica, emphasized that now is the time to start talking about heroin.
I was talking to my younger brother (19) about the drug and how many of his former classmates are on it. He informed me that it is cheaper to purchase heroin than a pack of cigarettes. How sad. I hope everyone in the community continues to be proactive on trying to keep kids off this awful drug.
I know we lost 3 people last year from my own graduating class to it, and we are 28 now.
Keri Ciadella pointed out an anonymous resource available for addicts and their families.
Many of us are dealing with the same kind of issues that you are. It is said that the loved ones and friends become "addicted" to the addict. Trust me, I know, that no one needs to go through it alone. I found a wonderful group called FAMILIES ANONYMOUS (FA for short) that meets Monday nights from 6:30-8:00 at Palos Hospital. It has helped my family tremendously by giving us the tools to help with OUR needs as well as the addict.
When all seems grim, there is hope.
The conversation has started. Have you joined it yet?
Look later in the week for resources available to people suffering from addiction