Heroin usage in the United States is on the rise, and Wilmette has witnessed that rise first hand, with 24 cases relating to heroin in the past two years and four residents dying of heroin overdose in the last three years, according to the Wilmette Police Department.
"There are a couple of different factors causing this [rise in the community]," said Brian King, Wilmette Chief of police. "The first is the amount of heroin coming into the country has increased. The second is that it's cheap and accessible."
While many think of heroin as a low-class drug injected directly into the skin, King said that that stereotype isn't the case with many people today, and that most users will start out snorting the drug. They may then begin to inject it as they become more addicted, as it gives users a more intense experience.
King noted that users will drive to Chicago and purchase the drug, and officers will often find that they'll stop off in Wilmette near the expressway on their way home to injest it.
Locally, most users are between the ages of 19 and 46, with 26 being the average age. They've also found that prescription drugs tend to be a gateway into heroin.
"Most drug users tend to be risk-takers," King said. "But heroin users are more likely to be self-medicators."
King advised that parent drop off their unused prescription medications at the Wilmette Police Station's prescription medication disposal program, where the pills will be incinerated.
King also noted that the police were surprised to learn that users in drug treatment said that they first got involved in heroin because they didn't realize the dangers of the drug. In order to prevent this from happening again, the Wilmette Police Department has hosted panels and meetings on heroin in the community, and also offered up its services to the local school districts, such as New Trier High School.
The police also offer many support programs for parents, including a full-time on-staff social worker who residents can talk to, as well as other programs in the community that the department can refer both parents and users to.
"Even if it isn't on your radar, keep it in," King said. "Have the courage to communicate to your kids. And if you are touched by this, you do not walk alone."
King said parents who suspect their children may be using heroin, or any other drug, should just "straight-up ask them," and try not to sound judgemental.
While it's still too early to tell if the department's crack-down on heroin has decreased the incidents occurring in the community, there has only been one incident in 2013 involving a heroin overdose.