It's cheap. It's easy to get. And it's becoming the drug of choice for teenagers in the western suburbs.
Places like Naperville, which is loaded with tree-lined streets and nice houses with two-car garages. Here, money is supposed to buy you a pass on urban problems. But not any more.
Casey Koesling of Joliet, who is 23-years-old now, overdosed twice in one day back in 2009.
"I overdosed, woke up in the hospital and found out I still had my heroin and made it back home with it," he said. "I did it again and woke up with them pulling the syringe out of my neck."
Death by an overdose of heroin is a disturbing trend among teenagers and young adults in dupage---lake and will counties. In 2010 in the western counties, nine users overdosed on drugs. Just one year later, that number skyrocketed to 94.
The main problem is that after the first hit, there's a 50/50 chance you're hooked. Dealers are banking on that, and in some cases -- to make sure your teen becomes a full-time customer -- the first hit is free.
Derek Richards of Frankfort is 19 now. He started snorting heroin when he was 16. He got his drugs right off Interstate 290. It's known as the Ike to most commuters, but to drug addicts, it's the heroin highway to Chicago's west side, in a neighborhood called "K-Town" because of K-named streets like Kilbourn, Kildare, Kostner and Kolmar.
"The west side is the place to go for your drugs -- heroin or anything you want," Richards said. "It just made your body feel real good -- really relaxed."
Drug users pay as little as $10/hit. But that's just the beginning of the price these kids will pay.
"When you can get it that cheap -- that's all it took," said Casey Koesling. "As soon as I found that out, I was out there everyday after that."
Casey has been clean for ten months. He got arrested and says the State's Attorneys office in Joliet saved his life.
Now, Chuck and Jennifer Bowers are hoping the same program has the same effect on their son, who was a high school standout. He's 20-years-old now and has overdosed on heroin two times. He was arrested two months ago for drugs. Their message for other parents: Don't deny what could be happening in your own home.
"Stealing -- we'd find things missing around the house," Jennifer said.
"Heck, pretty soon everything was gone. His appearance was going down the tubes. He looked horrible. He actually looked like a skeleton," Chuck said.
Law enforcement officials in Joliet and Naperville are trying to save lives by educating parents in the suburbs about teenage drug use. Earlier this week, five hundred parents in Naperville attended a meeting with Naperville police and the superintendent of schools.
Experts say the problem is bad in the suburbs because Chicago has the worst heroin problem in the nation. The drug in it's purest form can kill, but the stuff that's out on the streets now has been mixed with things like household cleaning products, drywall and strychnine. When those are injected into the body, they clog blood vessels and can kill.
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