Forum tells high school families of growing heroin problem
Celeste Napier of Rush University Medical Center talks about the dangerous effects of drugs and especially heroin on the brain at a community symposium at Vernon Hills High School. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 1:56AM
VERNON HILLS — Michelle Hines does not want any parent to go through what she has endured — the tears and pain of a child incarcerated, the expenses of treatment and legal fees for a son fighting heroin addiction.
“I’ve talked to doctors wondering why treatment programs haven’t worked,” Hines said at a heroin forum at Vernon Hills High School Nov. 12. “I’ve spent our last dime on an attorney hoping to keep our son out of jail or a treatment program that we hope helps.”
The Lake Zurich mom of a 24-year-old heroin addict urged parents of Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools to learn all they can about the addicting drug.
She said as a teen her son experimented with marijuana and alcohol, later turning to Vicodin that Hines takes for chronic pain and eventually heroin.
“We have had six years of court, felony incarcerations and his friends’ funerals, including his 18-year-old girlfriend,” Hines said.
Hines and other panelists noted that heroin is no longer just an inner-city drug, that it has made its way into Lake County.
Two Vernon Hills High School students have died of heroin overdoses in just over a year.
Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey said that Lake County had 39 heroin-related deaths in 2010, 42 in 2011 and 38 through October of 2012.
“This is Russian roulette,” Yancey said. “It could kill you on the first time or the fiftieth time.”
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said that 40 percent of the county jail’s population is there on drug-related offenses, and of that number, three in 10 are heroin-related.
Mike, a former Stevenson High School addict whose last name was not revealed, said he started drinking at the age of 10 and eventually turning to prescription drugs, even stealing his parents’ prescriptions. The former addict progressed to a $200-a-day heroin addiction.
Mike said even his mom getting stage 4 cancer wasn’t enough to get him to stop his drug abuse.
Tara Rooney, a senior at Vernon Hills High School, said the talks made an impact on her.
“A lot of times at programs like this you just hear a lot of statistics, but Mike’s message is what I’ll remember,” Rooney said.
Shannon Nugent, also a VHHS senior, lost her best friend to a heroin overdose in October 2011. She said signs of heroin use are not always evident.
Ann Hiscox attended the forum with her husband and two children.
“I think something like this is good for the community to make sure people learn about this drug,” she said.