Heroin-addiction sees no race, gender, or socio-economic boundaries. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin related overdose deaths in the United States nearly quadrupled and more than 8,200 people died in 2013.
“This year, we’re at 39,” said Winnebago County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Hintz, referencing local deaths. “Last year, we had a total of 92, which borderline averages about 1.5 heroin deaths a week.”
In the past decade, heroin use has more than doubled among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. According to the CDC, since 2000, opioid overdoses have increased 286%. According the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2014 about 42% of the total drug overdose deaths in Illinois were heroin-related.
“[There’s] so much shame around addiction because of terminology, because of how people view people who have addiction… it’s not that. It’s a disease,” said Bridget Kiely, administrator for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities.
More than 9 in 10 people who’ve used heroin also used at least one other drug.
“I’m a recovering heroin addict,” said “Kate.” “I’ve been clean now coming up on 10 years in December.”
“Kate” said that she started drinking and smoking marijuana as a child. She started stealing pills from her mother, then moved on to cocaine, and soon after was addicted to heroin by the time she was 18.
“Kate” has been able to fight her disease, get her Master’s Degree and is now counseling those who need it most.
“It doesn’t matter what life throws at me. It’s what I do each day,” she says. “So, I know that every day I make a decision to do something for my recovery.”
For recovering addicts, getting the help they need can be a challenge, as many feel ashamed for using.
“[Help] is easy to get,” said Hintz. “If we’re able to have different education, different outlets for people to go to counseling, anything that would be able to help that would be a plus.”
The signs of addiction can be easy to miss. Sometimes, they can present as simply as a loved one who’s always tired or more forgetful than usual. But, the ways you can help someone who might be struggling with this disease can be as simple as showing them you care.
“We can help you,” said Kiely. “We can support you and help you get to all the things that you need to get to.”
If you think you may know someone who’s addicted to heroin, you can reach out to the various treatment centers in the area, such as TASC at 815-965-1106 or Rosecrance at 888-928-5278.