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When heroin is mixed with fentanyl: a deadly combination

Last week, Huntington, W. V. had an unprecedented 26 heroin overdoses in only three and a half hours. While none of the overdoses were fatal--due largely to the availability of nalaxone, a heroin antidote--authorities believe the extraordinary number was linked to a new batch of heroin mixed with highly lethal fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 80 to 100 times more potent. It has recently been added to "cut" heroin, meaning that it is added to the more expensive heroin to dilute it. Drug users are often unaware of its presence and, as such, are not able to adapt their use to it. The result is often death.

A powerful drug with a powerful pull

The heroin epidemic is not limited to poor counties in Appalachia. It is widespread and insidious. It lives here in DuPage County, and its users come from every socio-economic and educational background. It does not discriminate: It targets all races, ages and gender.

Maybe it's targeted someone you love. Maybe, try as they might, they struggle to rid themselves of the addiction. Maybe it is your spouse, maybe it is your child. And maybe it is creating legal problems in addition to the problems of addiction.

No shame in asking for help

Treatment can be difficult for many--they may believe they do not have a problem; they may fear they can't afford it; perhaps, in their heart, they may not really want to quit. As your loved one struggles, you may struggle, too. What can you do? What are your options?

You may feel guilty. Or responsible. You may try to "love" enough so that the person will choose to stop. You may make demands, yell, cajole, and plead. You may fantasize about forcing the person into treatment. But no one can make anyone get better. No one can change someone who doesn't want to change. Even court-ordered drug treatment cannot force someone to recover.

If someone close to you has a problem with heroin, you are justifiably frightened. But you are not without resources. Nar-Anon is a place to start. They offer meetings and resources to help you understand what is happening and how you can manage. They can offer concern, comfort, and connection with other people in your situation.

If your loved one is facing legal trouble because of their addiction, call a compassionate and experienced criminal defense attorney, one who can help you understand their rights, and work hard to ensure they navigate the court system with an ally and advocate. Be assured--there is never any shame in getting the help that you need.

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