Suburban teens: The new face of heroin use in central Illinois

By Maggie Vespa

June 19, 2012 Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 9:46 PM CDT

It's being called the 'new cocaine', or the 'new meth'.

Heroin, a narcotic police say is traditionally reserved for hardened criminals and hard-core drug addicts, is now the new drug of choice among white, suburban teens in Central Illinois.

Authorities and medical experts say parents, simply, need to wake up.

For weeks his was, supposedly, the face of a fluke.

In the days following April's fatal heroin overdose of Dunlap High School student Joshua Olt, school officials claimed the tragedy was not the sign of a rise in drug use among local teens.

Law enforcement officials disagreed saying, in particular heroin use was increasing.

Local authorities and medical experts alike had hoped the case of Joshua Olt would serve as a wake-up call to the community, but doctors at OSF St. Francis Medical Center say just in this last week, they've learned, sadly, that's not the case.

Dr. George Hevesy, director of emergency medical services at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, describes it as a 'heroin epidemic.'

"I worked almost every day last week," he said. "We saw an explosion of heroin related overdoses and some deaths."

Authorities agree. In the last six months, they have seen a major influx of heroin from Chicago.

The deadly drug has become stronger and cheaper, making it a favorite among suburban teens.

"It's not an inner-city drug anymore. It's like the drugs that we talked about in the 70's," said Peoria Sheriff Mike McCoy. "You know, we told everybody 'Look, the drugs are coming to Bartonville and Chillicothe and Dunlap and Peoria Heights. The drugs are coming.'"

So both are calling on parents-- talk to your kids. If you notice changes in their behavior, look or mood get help before it's too late.

"You feel their pain because I'm a parent also," said Hevesy. "I'm here as a physician, a parent and a member of the community."

A message they hope sinks in before another life is cut short.

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