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posted: 9/6/2011 5:00 AM

Latest deaths reminder of drug war

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

We have used this space many times over the years to warn parents and the community at large about the rampant drug use among teens in the suburbs. It's a painful subject, because oftentimes we do the reminding in the wake of a tragic story of overdose or death caused by heroin or some other dangerous drug. This editorial, unfortunately, is no exception.

Last week, Naperville police closed their investigation into the deaths of two teens who died within a week of each other.

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Jonathan Betten, 17, died July 1 from combined drug intoxication involving alcohol and over-the-counter cold medicine, according to the Will County coroner's office. Ryan Warner, 17, was found unresponsive on his back porch July 6. He died of heroin intoxication related to recreational drug use, according to the DuPage coroner's office.

Their deaths prompted a letter to the editor from a therapist at Naperville's addiction recovery center, Linden Oaks at Edward Hospital, who saw a need to remind those in the community there were ways to fight back.

"Let's take the reaction to these deaths as an opportunity to work together to begin a crusade that will move beyond the pain in our hearts," said Stephanie Willis, a mental health and addictions therapist at Linden Oaks. "Perhaps you want to help but aren't sure what to do. Getting involved in ... free recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon is an amazing place to start."

For parents, sometimes making that first call is the hardest. Perhaps you aren't sure who to call or don't know what to say. Your child's school or somewhere like Linden Oaks are great places to start. There really are a plethora of resources available once you determine that you and your child need help.

But don't wait until it's too late. And don't assume it's not happening. Willis and experts like her are sure to convince you otherwise.

"The affordability of and ease of access to lethal substances and other drugs in this area have long been underestimated. We're treating younger populations who have become more clever and resourceful about altering their state of reality."

That means they'll find what is available, including over-the-counter cough medicines that have hallucinogenic features, she said.

"Awareness from the parental point of view is key right now," said Beth Sack, also from Linden Oaks.

We've been saying that for more than a decade, ever since we published a series of stories on heroin use in the suburbs. Last week's news just confirms what we knew then and what we knew at the end of 2010 when we called for a suburban war on drugs. This is a problem that is not going away. It's a problem that occurs everywhere and it is a problem we must continue to fight.

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