Editorial: Lock up painkillers as part of heroin fight

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/30/2014 1:01 AM

It's a story that is all too common. A 20-year-old woman who fought her heroin addiction and seemingly is a winner in the battle after a year of being clean, gets sucked back in by old friends, overdoses and dies. On Christmas Eve.

For David Cohen, his 21st birthday ends with an overdose on heroin and a trip to the hospital. After a yo-yo series of battles against drug addiction over several years, he finally wins his battle.


Two stories with two very different endings, highlighting both the epidemic the suburbs face today and the hope that the fight can be winnable given the right resources and attention.

It's an issue we feel strongly about -- having first detailed the surge of heroin use in the early part of the 21st century and more recently with our ongoing series, Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes.

For Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko, the memory of 20-year-old Danielle Nicholas' death on that Christmas Eve is a reminder, he told Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson, to keep the fight going on two fronts -- law enforcement and education.

It's a two-pronged attack that police departments throughout the suburbs have embraced. In Naperville, for example, a push is on to educate families about the link between prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction.

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Wondering what to do if you are a parent? Take this step and you might head off problems down the road.

"Our objective is to get these prescription painkillers out of people's homes," said Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall. "Individuals in their teens and 20s are getting addicted to painkillers and then going to heroin because it's easier and cheaper to buy."

Cohen, who today is the clinical director of the Hazelden drug addiction treatment facility in Chicago, wrote a guest column in Wednesday's Daily Herald expressing the same view. He called on physicians and parents to understand this link and take action to keep painkiller prescriptions to a minimum and to keep those that are necessary locked up.

Cohen cited the National Survey on Drug Use that reported nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for nonmedical purposes. And if you think it's not important, consider this: More than 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain pills got them from friends or relatives, according to the same survey.

As Cohen points out, October is Heroin Abuse Awareness Month. And this week is "National Drug Take-Back Week." There are many fronts in the battle against heroin and drug addiction, but we urge everyone to take stock of what is in your medicine cabinet and lock up or remove the painkillers and other prescription drugs that can lead to trouble.

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