Back when we started documenting the suburbs' drug crisis in 2001, we called it "The Hidden Scourge" for a few reasons. No one yet had uncovered the extent to which heroin and other lethal drugs were gathering suburban teens and young adults in their grip and, literally, squeezing the life out of them. Secondly, many parents, friends, siblings and police did not want to admit the suburbs had a deadly drug problem.
Sadly, more than a decade later, the scourge and stigma remain challenges. That is why we continue to write about the scourge. And that is why it remains important to praise all who are courageous enough to step into the spotlight and join the battle against addiction. Last week, Naperville mom Caroline Kacena stepped forward. Less than a week into dealing with the grief of losing her 20-year-old son, John, to heroin's grasp, she boldly shared her story and vowed to fight.
Like far too many parents and other loved ones before her, Kacena acknowledged she'd never felt as alone or as embarrassed as when she faced the fact that John was addicted to heroin. He was sick with the disease of addiction.
"But we need to blow the lid on that way of thinking," Kacena told Daily Herald Staff Writer Justin Kmitch. "No one would ever be embarrassed because their child has cancer, so there is nothing to be ashamed about with addiction."
John Kacena's death is the second attributed to a heroin overdose this year in Naperville. Neuqua Valley High School Senior Megan Miller, 18, died from a heroin and ecstasy overdose in January. It is a problem throughout the suburbs. Teens and young adults are getting hooked on heroin and other hard-core drugs that are too cheap and easily available. And across the suburbs, we continue to focus on teens, young adults, parents, police and others who keep trying in every way possible to stop the drug-addled death and destruction.
Members of Congress have joined the cause hosting forums on the problem. 13th District Rep. Judy Biggert organized an effort in Naperville recently. Last week, we also reported that 10th District Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth is part of a bipartisan panel that has recommended to the Food and Drug Administration that changes be made to labels of prescription painkillers. He also wants to do more to discourage area doctors from so easily prescribing heavy pain killers for light to moderate pain. Dold said he believes prescription drug abuse can lead to other drug abuse, including a bump in heroin use.
Kacena, meanwhile, has started her own support group on Facebook, "Open Hearts Open Eyes," and offers to sit with addicted kids or find someone to sit with them to try to keep them safe when loved ones need a break.
"We, as parents, need to stop worrying about who is passing judgment on us and start saving our children," she said.
Amen. Whatever it takes to stem this scourge.