Chicago leads the nation with heroin-related emergency room visits, just one of several troubling indicators of the growing heroin crisis in the Chicago metropolitan area since the late 90's. In a report released on Monday, researchers from Roosevelt University cited the escalating amount of overdose death in the collar counties, a significant proportion of Cook County jail inmates testing positive for heroin, and the trending amount of users that inject the drug.
The new users of heroin: affluent suburban teens and young adults who snort or sniff the highly addictive drug. Once stigmatized because of its junkie connotation, many believe it has proliferated because it no longer needs to be injected. Users eventually may turn to injection as their tolerance level increases their need.
Heroin is easily obtained in the Chicago area and is trafficked through gangs using open air drug markets. Suburban kids with access to cars and cash frequent gang-controlled trafficking areas on the West side of Chicago, where they are welcomed and protected customers.
North Avenue, dubbed the "Heroin Highway" is a common route for many of these suburbanites, with heroin-related arrests occurring at all times of the day. The drug is sold in small amounts and its inexpensive cost adds to its popularity among high school kids and young adults.
Heroin is synthetically derived from the opium poppy. Even upon its first use, heroin affects the central nervous system, initially producting a euphoric feeling that users continually chase. As their tolerance level to the drug builds, heroin users need increasing amounts to get that same high.
Accidental overdose from the drug is a critical danger, even upon initial use. Heroin is usually cut with other substances, so users have no knowledge of the purity and potency of their supply.
Did you know that heroin was first marketed by The Bayer Company in the late 1800's as a cough reliever and painkiller?