Heroin Use on the Rise in Illinois’ Youth

Police departments around Illinois are reporting an increase in heroin use, especially with young people. As Illinois police arrest more people for drug charges involving heroin, they are looking for ways to educate the local youth about the dangers of the drug.

Growing Problem

As early as 2000, the National Drug Intelligence Center noted in its Illinois Drug Threat Assessment that the availability of heroin was becoming a bigger problem in the state, particularly in the Chicago area. The Assessment also noted that use was growing among the young people in Chicago suburbs.

A 2010 Roosevelt University study concluded that nationally Chicago is the city with the highest prevalence of heroin use and associated problems. Heroin is the most common substance for which people in Illinois seek treatment, exceeding the number of people who enter treatment for cocaine and marijuana. The study reported that from 2004-2008, Chicago had the most heroin-related emergency room visits of any city in the U.S. - almost 50 percent more than New York City, the city with the second highest rate.

In Naperville alone, police report that 34 percent of all drug-related arrests since 2009 have involved heroin. Police made 24 heroin-related arrests in 2009, 33 in 2010 and 28 so far in 2011.

Prescription Drugs as Gateway

Many law enforcement officers believe that one of the major reasons young people try heroin is because they already have an addiction to prescription drugs. Young people realize that heroin is much cheaper and easier to obtain than the prescription pills they have been taking and switch to heroin.

Many young people snort heroin when they first start taking it, making it difficult for friends and family to detect that they are using it. Once they build up a tolerance to the drug, they must inject the heroin to get the same high.

Educational Efforts

Police and various non-profit groups in Illinois have been working to teach children about the dangers of heroin use. Police officers in Kendall County have been running a drug education programs for first, third and fifth graders and are going to incorporate more information on heroin in the programs. Police also work with The Hearts of Hope, a group for parents whose children suffer from drug addiction, to spread the word about how the devastation resulting from heroin addiction.

Drug addiction can tear a person's life apart and cause run-ins with the law. If you face drug charges, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advocate for your rights.