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posted: 12/16/2013 2:07 PM

Wood Dale to sponsor forum on dangers of heroin

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Wood Dale police Chief Greg Vesta has school-aged children.

And he says he and every other parent should be concerned about the dangers of heroin and its increasing hold in DuPage County.

The Wood Dale Police Department, along with DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen, will sponsor a community forum on the dangers of heroin in the community at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wood Dale Junior High, 655 N. Wood Dale Road.

"We need to address the stigma that this epidemic is growing because of poor parenting or inner-city kids," Vesta said. "It's our kids. Every single one of our kids is at risk if they try it only once. The facts show that after the first try kids get hooked and within a short time are in jail or in the ground."

Jorgensen said the forum, which will include a recovering heroin addict and families who have lost loved ones to heroin, is critical as the county sets record numbers for heroin deaths in 2013.

So far this year, there have been 45 confirmed heroin-related deaths in DuPage and three suspicious deaths that likely will be confirmed in coming weeks, Jorgensen said.

That's seven, possibly 10, more than the county had for all of 2012. And the final number for 2013 is expected to be even higher.

Authorities say one reason there's a growing trend of heroin use and death across the Chicago area and the nation is changes in the way the drug can be taken. It's also cheaper to acquire than in the past and highly addictive.

Vesta said police are also learning that the gateway drugs to heroin also are changing.

"We're finding that athletes are becoming the most at-risk population because they are being overprescribed opiate-based pain medications for sports injuries and they're becoming dependent on them," Vesta said. "When the prescription runs out, they learn they can pay $40 to $60 for OxyContin or they can easily get to the West Side (of Chicago) and score a bag of heroin for $10."

As the numbers show in DuPage, using heroin can be deadly. At one point over the summer, the county had 15 heroin overdose deaths in 17 days.

Among the DuPage residents who died this year from heroin, 32 were men. The oldest was 64 and the youngest was 15. The victims lived in communities throughout the county.

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