www.vagazette.com/entertainment/parenting/ct-tribu-weigel-heroin-20101122,0,1513230.column

vagazette.com

Teens and heroin: A growing issue

Heroin is cheaper than ever, and easy to get. Learn how to help your kids avoid this danger.

Jen Weigel

Lessons for life

November 22, 2010

Advertisement

Did you know that for the price of a venti caramel macchiato at Starbucks, you can get high on heroin? And if you have a teenager who likes to party, this is most likely their drug of choice, according to a recent study by Roosevelt University.

"Over the last five years, we've seen a rise in young people ages 18-24 abusing heroine," says Lisa Snipes, vice president of Serenity House Counseling Services in Addison. "With the older people you had a goal to get their houses back, but now we work with kids who think they're bulletproof,"

The Roosevelt study released in June found that people in Illinois seek treatment for heroin more than any other illegal substance, second only to alcohol. 1n 1998, the study reveals, 4,150 people were admitted into treatment for heroin in the state of Illinois. In 2008 that number jumped to 17,471. Of that number, 67 percent are Caucasian, 42 percent Latino; and 9.5 percent African American. In 2009, of the 15- to 19-year-olds discharged from the hospital for heroin, 81 percent were Caucasian. Of the 20- to 24-year-olds released, that figure rose to 83 percent.

"People think their teenagers are too smart to use heroin," says Snipes. "We had a boy in St. Charles who was found with a needle in his arm on a park bench. It's hitting the suburbs like never before."

"We also see women -- smart women with homes and kids who seem to have it all, falling prey to heroin," says Donna Foyle, the Serenity House Recovery Home Program Manager."I had a woman who was married with two perfect kids -- she became a heroin addict, and left her family to live with her dealer. She wound up overdosing and got CPR from a total stranger who left the scene and it saved her life. She's been sober now for three years."

So why is this drug having such a surge in popularity?

"It's so cheap and really easy to get," says Snipes. "Most bags of heroin still only go for $10."

"These kids have cars and can make a quick run into the city," says Foyle. "The dealers won't hurt them because they want to keep them as customers, so they feel invincible."

So how do you know if your loved one might be abusing heroin? Here are some tips from Serenity House on what to look for:

Changes in their social circle. Young people who have started using heroin may suddenly replace old friends with new ones. The grades may dip dramatically. While this is common behavior in most teenagers, ask questions when new friends appear.

Physical symptoms. Heroin users may develop runny noses and eyes, constricted pupils and spend an unusually large amount of time sleeping. A regular user may have an unkempt appearance and begin to neglect their hygiene. The long-sleeve shirt to cover track marks is common, but in this day and age, "users are injecting themselves in places you don't want to think about," says Snipes.

Look for items that seem out of place. Small foil balls, capsules, small plastic bags, or residue in the coffee bean grinder. There might be missing items such as spoons or aluminum foil.

Keep track of your money. Cash or other valuables may go missing. Beware of patterns with borrowing money for "a little gas for the car" or "a quick bite to eat." Look in checkbooks, particularly in the back or middle, for missing checks. On the other hand, you might find unexplained valuables.

Keep track of mileage on the car. If your teen is making frequent trips into the city from the suburbs, you will know by watching the mileage when they use their vehicle.

And with enough support and treatment, even the worst situations can be a thing of the past.

"I had a woman who was in treatment five years ago whose mother traded her to men for drugs when she was only 8 years old," says Foyle. "Yet I got a Christmas card from her last year and she's amazing now. That's what keeps us doing what we do."

For more information on Serenity House and their services, visit http://www.serenityhouse.com.

jweigel@tribune.com