Peoria's heroin problem and one mother's solution

By Ashley McNamee

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Peoria County drug enforcement officers say heroin arrived in Peoria from Chicago about two years ago and it's not going away.

"I would guess my agents could buy heroin daily, I just don't have enough agents to do that," said Capt. Dave Briggs, director of the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group.

He says the problem is heroin is cheap, less than $100 a gram, and you never know what you're actually buying or how strong it is.

"They say that after the first, initial use of heroin you always try to chase that high," said Briggs. "People will shoot up more and more to recapture that first sense of euphoria."

Doctors at OSF St. Francis Medical Center say the number of heroin cases have almost tripled in recent years.

"In 2011, 2012 we saw 25 cases each year. In 2013 we saw 70, said Dr. Leon Yeh.

But those heroin cases don't always become heroin deaths.

"If they make it to the hospital and they're still breathing, there is a good chance we can bring them back and reverse the agent, support their vital signs and get them back," said the emergency department doctor.

Dr. Tamara Olt's son Josh never made it to the hospital. The 16-year-old Dunlap High School student overdosed on heroin in his bedroom almost two years ago.

Olt says it's unlikely heroin users can quit cold turkey so she's is on a mission to make the drug naloxone more available because it stops an overdose's effects.

"Don't judge, let's fix the problem, let's be compassionate, caring human beings and treat a health crisis, which this is," said Olt. "Hopefully we can save lives."

For more information on the naloxone distribution program, call 309-966-3643.

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