Editorial: Treat opioid abuse like the disease it is

Tonight, people will gather at Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights for a candlelight vigil to remember loved ones who succumbed to the dangers of opioid use.

Tears will be shed. Names will be read. Stories will be told. Let's hope that others hear those stories, too.

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let it serve as a reminder that this problem cannot be shrugged off as something relegated to risk-taking teens shooting heroin or people lacking in moral fiber. The prevalence of prescription opioids in society today makes this a problem that also can befall those with chronic pain and a host of other problems.

Opioid abuse is not just the flavor of the month. It's a source of chronic pain for society. And it is something that cannot be corralled until it's brought out of the shadows and addressed head on as the cancer that it is.

We must learn to acknowledge the addictive power of such drugs, understand human susceptibility and realize that opioid abuse can befall a friend, a co-worker, a spouse, a child or a grandparent. Or you.

It's a good bet someone you know might have a burgeoning problem, whether he or she knows it or not.

John Glueckert Jr. has seen an average of one person a month come through the doors of his Arlington Heights funeral home as a result of an overdose death, and he's frustrated.

Glueckert has been running clinics at the funeral home on how to administer naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

Each person who completes the education session gets a vial of naloxone, courtesy of Live4Lali, an Arlington Heights-based nonprofit that hosts training sessions.

It makes so much sense to turn mourning into a positive educational experience.

Glueckert was moved when he learned that Denise and Tim Eilrich wanted to create something positive from their son Russell's overdose death in 2016 by having Live4Lali show mourners how to prevent future deaths.

Glueckert's staff recently tied 2,155 purple ribbons on a screen of netting in front of the funeral home along busy Arlington Heights Road to signify the number of people projected to die this year in Illinois alone from an accidental overdose. The image is shocking.

"Each one of those ribbons is a person, their family and friends," Glueckert told our Christopher Placek. "It's overwhelming."

So join the vigil, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at Lake Arlington, 2201 N. Windsor Drive. Light a candle, listen to the stories.

Let your preconceived notions of who might fall prey to opioid abuse fade away. And talk about it.

There's no telling who might be next.

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