DuPage County Officials Warn of Dangers of Heroin, Fentanyl

Thu June 16, 2016

DuPage County officials held a news conference Tuesday to warn the public of the growing dangers associated with heroin and fentanyl.

Officials who presented information at the news conference included County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen, State's Attorney Robert Berlin, Hanover Park Deputy Police Chief Andrew Johnson representing the DuPage Chiefs of Police Association and DuPage County Health Department Executive Director Karen Ayala.

"Never before has heroin prevention been more important than it is today, right here in DuPage County. I'm asking parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, camp counselors, anyone who deals with students or young adults: Please educate yourself and talk to your family about the dangers of heroin," Cronin said.

The County has seen a recent spike in deaths associated with heroin and heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful opiate that is significantly more potent than morphine.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen, M.D. said, "I would like to inform the public of three disturbing trends which are causing increased overdoses and deaths in the Chicago metro area. First, large amounts of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate stronger than heroin, is being distributed in the Chicago metro area either mixed with heroin or by itself. Second, fentanyl and analogs (designer fentanyls) are being illicitly made in homegrown labs or imported. These designer fentanyls are often five to ten times stronger than medical fentanyl. 

And finally, fentanyl has been illicitly manufactured and mislabeled or packaged to look like other drugs such as OxyContin and Xanax and sold illegally on the street. Therefore, users may not even know that they are taking this powerful and deadly drug. These three factors have led to an alarming increase in overdose and death."

In 2015, the DuPage Narcan Program saved 62 people who were overdosing on heroin or fentanyl. Through early June of 2016, the DuPage Narcan Program reports 64 overdose reversals. In 2015, 43 people died of heroin overdose in DuPage County.

"Recently we have witnessed a startling increase in heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths, not only in DuPage County but throughout Illinois," said Berlin. "Any time there is a narcotic overdose death in DuPage County we are committed to working with law enforcement to identify, apprehend and vigorously prosecute those who supplied the fatal dose. It doesn't matter whether the dealer who supplied a fatal dose is a big-time supplier or a small-time peddler. In the eyes of the law, a drug dealer is a drug dealer. Anyone who supplies drugs to another could be held responsible if they supplied a lethal dose. People need to know that there is a price to pay for supplying potentially killer doses of heroin, fentanyl and other dangerous narcotics and that price could be up to 60 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections."

"Police officers are fully aware of the increased usage of heroin and - most recently - fentanyl in DuPage County and beyond," said Johnson. "We are also aware that reversing this trend will require long-term changes in behavior and we intend to work with our partners and coalitions throughout DuPage County to stop this epidemic."

"The increases in heroin deaths in DuPage County and the increases in overdose reversals reported by the DuPage Narcan Program are concerning. This is truly a public health concern that requires multi-sector support," said Ayala. "The Health Department is addressing these increases by raising public awareness of these issues and then offering services and programs to drug users that hopefully will reduce drug abuse and ultimately break the cycle of drug addiction."
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Note: A full video of the press conference will be uploaded to the County's YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC45ol-gzYfebGvZ3OLhzClA.