The Daily Herald's Nov. 21 editorial, "The fight against heroin involves us all," is timely and needed. State Rep. Patti Bellock identifies the high number of heroin overdose deaths in the suburbs and the fact that these 18 deaths in DuPage County alone would be termed an epidemic if they were from swine flu. Drug abuse affects more than the victim; it affects families, communities, workplaces, schools and health care resources.
Parents and citizens can call on public officials at the county, state and federal levels to focus on drug abuse as a priority, but they also can pay more attention themselves. Heroin is usually the final drug of choice for the drug addict who may start with marijuana, cocaine or prescription drugs. Warning signs of heroin addiction are no longer just tracks on the arm. Heroin also can be smoked.
There are a wide variety of symptoms of use and abuse. We need to be able to recognize warning signs and symptoms and the value of intervention. Heroin addiction is not self-curing. The user needs help -- from parents, friends and police -- and treatment works. While recovery is a challenge, it does happen every day.
We also need to continue to punish the traffickers and sellers of this poison. The drug dealers, the cartels and the opium grown in Latin America are a big part of the problem, but we at home can do more to reduce the demand, to intervene earlier and to provide treatment and recovery opportunities for those caught in the lethal web of heroin addiction.
Former DEA administrator