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updated: 2/19/2010 8:50 AM

Forum educates residents on suburban drug problem

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There was a house in Barrington, where police said they discovered marijuana being grown in every single room.

Or the 5,000 Ecstasy pills that undercover drug officers purchased in Deerfield. Or the 15-year-old Lake County girl who police found with four empty vodka bottles, cocaine and explosives in her bedroom.

These were among the eye-opening and disturbing stories police shared with a standing-room-only crowd during a drug forum at Lake Zurich High School Thursday night.

The forum was organized after three Lake Zurich High School alumni died of heroin overdoses in the past 14 months, and Lake County recorded nearly 30 heroin overdose deaths in 2009.

"It's not just Lake Zurich, it's everywhere. It's in every community in Lake County, Cook County, DuPage County ... everywhere," said Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group agent Pat Gara, one of the speakers.

The forum educated people on the drugs that are growing in popularity in the suburbs: heroin, Ecstasy and prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.

But it also offered practical advice for parents, such as how to dispose of unused prescription medicine (the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County can assist); the importance of talking to your children early and often about drugs; and the benefit of regularly drug-testing kids with kits purchased at drugstores.

"Then, if they're at a party and they're offered something, they can say, 'Oh, I'd love to, but my parents drug test me," said Hearts of Hope founder Lea Minalga, whose son is a former heroin addict. "Silence is permission ... it's time to talk. And it's time to act."