Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

April 10, 2014

Heroin overdoses frequent challenge


"I'm not sure that I'm the biggest fan of it," he said.

White said the focus should be on preventing medical professionals from even needing to step in with an antidote by cutting off heroin use before it becomes a problem. White believes parents and community members should be mindful of the symptoms of heroin use and the tell-tale signs of someone on the drug — namely lethargy, dry mouth, flushed skin, suddenly nodding off, vomiting and nausea — and assist the person to find help before a problem develops.

"I would encourage families to recognize the symptoms of this and get them help before it comes in my arena or law enforcement," he said.

Heartland Human Services Outpatient Clinical Director Kurt Simon has been helping area residents with substance abuse treatment for more than a decade.

"I've never seen anything quite like this," he said

Not only has heroin abuse increased, but the drug itself has changed from when it was known as a "gutter" drug.

"Heroin back in the day use to be the drug of choice for those on the low socioeconomic status," said Simon.

What is being produced now is still cheap, but high quality. Simon said that is because bumper crops coming from Asia and Afghanistan across the border have driven down the price, so it's affordable to anybody.

The demand for heroin stems from an upswing in prescription pain pill abuse. As physicians began to closely monitor prescriptions, addicts started to look elsewhere for another opiate.

"It's an opiate, so anyone addicted to opiate painkillers will satisfy addiction with heroin," he said, adding that addiction is mainly seen in those ages 20 to 30 across all socioeconomic groups.

"It's across the board," he said.

The drug is made more lethal by its purity level. For a seller to increase heroin's profitability, it has to be laced with another substance. The purer the substance, the greater the risk of an overdose.

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