Heroin a terrorist attack on our youth
BY MICHAEL SCHOFIELD May 12, 2011 11:12PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Our area recently has seen the reemergence of heroin — but this time around it is more pure and potent than was many years ago. Heroin is a cheap, highly addictive drug and has no clinical or medical use.
As the use of this drug increases, so does the impact in our communities. It brings devastation to families, an increase in crime (to fund the addiction), the loss of innocence, a lifelong prison of addiction and, in the most extreme cases, death.
One of the most shocking things is how assessable heroin is; in almost any high school, students know a user or supplier. Heroin can be smoked, snorted or shot into veins and is extremely addictive. In many cases, a dealer will provide the first hit for free. The supplier knows once someone tries it, they are hooked and become repeat customers.
The growth of the drug plagues our communities. For instance in Will County, there were six heroin overdoes deaths in 1999. In 2009 there were 29 and in 2010 there were 26. As of April, we have already lost 12 people, and we are not yet halfway through 2011.
Heroin is nothing more than a terrorist attack on our young people. It is truly an equal-opportunity killer — race or economic background have no bearing.
Across America, we are tasked with fighting drug abuse. Financial funding for all programs are being reduced or eliminated. So who is responsible for ridding the influx of drugs in our communities? It’s all of ours.
It begins by educating not only our children, but parents and community leaders. Most people do not like getting involved, but drugs and alcohol abuse affects everyone in some way. Most people do not know of drug-related issues and crimes in their community because they are not always talked about or reported in the local papers.
On April 30 in Homer Glen, the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization (H.E.R.O.), the Southwest Coalition for Substance Issues and the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association organized a march to raise awareness. The idea came from Brian Kirk and John Roberts, founders of H.E.R.O., who have felt first-hand the affects of heroin on their families.
The community turned out in support, but we need more transparency in reporting drug and alcohol arrests and occurrences in our communities.
In today’s world, we sometimes unintentionally glamorize those who use drugs. We apply terms such as “designer” to new drug forms. Celebrities arrested for drug and alcohol abuse are big stories and not always portrayed in a way to discourage use.
Our children are growing up in a world of immediate satisfaction, instant information over the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and text messaging. In today’s video games, if players don’t like what happens or get killed, they just hit the reset button. Life has no reset button. The actions and decisions a person makes can and does affect others. This is just one of the lessons that should be instilled in our young students.
This should be done in grade school, long before peer pressure escalates in the high school years. Candy-coating life and its lessons just prolongs childhood.
After 30 years as a paramedic and seeing so many lives changed for the worse forever, I created a program called “In the Blink of an Eye.” I try to show the good and bad of resulting decisions, the impact every decision has, and the far-reaching impact that some produce. Good decision-making begins at home and is refined in school.
One would think that support of programs like this would be a no-brainer, but it is a fight to bring programs like this into schools. It is a fight to get sponsors to help defray costs, but it is well worth the fight. People make a difference.
Please share your experiences, mentor the youth, and support those who have strayed. Hug your family when you have the chance, never miss the opportunity to tell them how you feel about them, because in the blink of an eye, life as you know can be changed forever.
Michael Schofield is the Homer Township fire chief. Reach him at
(815) 838-5006 or via email