Heroin talk draws overflow crowd to Naperville library
By SUSAN FRICK CARLMAN email@example.com February 13, 2012 9:44PM
Community members stand along the back wall Monday for a presentation on heroin use at the Naperville 95th Street Library. The number of people interested attending exceeded the capacity of the community room, presenters held two informational sessions to accomodate the turnout. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Family members, friends and coworkers who suspect someone may be using heroin can be attuned to assorted signs. None of these characteristics or discoveries alone “proves” a person is using the drug; however, taken together, they can constitute strong clues.
Shortness of breath
Constricted (small) pupils
Sudden changes in behavior or actions
Cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly
Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy
Needles or syringes not used for other medical purposes
Burned silver spoons
Aluminum foil or gum wrappers with burn marks
Missing shoelaces (used as a tie off for injection sites)
Straws with burn marks
Small plastic bags, with white powdery residue
Water pipes or other pipe
Lying or other deceptive behavior
Avoiding eye contact, or distant field of vision
Substantial increases in time spent sleeping
Increase in slurred, garbled or incoherent speech
Sudden worsening of performance in school or work, including expulsion or loss of jobs
Decreasing attention to hygiene and physical appearance
Loss of motivation and apathy toward future goals
Withdrawal from friends and family, instead spending time with new friends with no natural tie
Lack of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
Repeatedly stealing or borrowing money from loved ones, or unexplained absence of valuables
Hostile behaviors toward loved ones, including blaming them for withdrawal or broken commitments
Regular comments indicating a decline in self esteem or worsening body image
Wearing long pants or long sleeves to hide needle marks, even in very warm weather
Runny nose (not explained by other illness or medical condition)
Needle track marks visible on arms
Infections or abscesses at injection site
For women, loss of menstrual cycle (amenorrhea)
Cuts, bruises or scabs from skin picking
Source: Timberline Knolls Residential
Treatment Center, Lemont
Parents and other community members who want to help the fight the growing presence of heroin in Naperville are encouraged to visit these websites:
And for information about reporting suspected drug activity, go to:
Updated: March 16, 2012 8:08AM
The room wasn’t nearly big enough.
Perhaps shaken by the deaths in Naperville of six people from heroin overdose last year, a crowd far larger than expected came to a presentation on the topic Monday night at the 95th Street Library. When some 300 people packed the large meeting room set aside for the gathering, organizers wound up repeating the event for another group just as large who couldn’t get in for the first round and waited 90 minutes in the hall.
Presenters including Naperville Police Department detectives Shaun Ferguson and Mike Umbenhower and Kimberly Groll, a drug and alcohol addictions counselor, did not mince words as they implored the audience, mostly parents, to be vigilant and proactive in the fight to stem the tide of the drug’s deadly progression. They urged the group to work with law enforcement, schools and treatment programs.
“It takes a family to raise a child,” Ferguson said. “It takes a village to help that family raise that child.”
Umbenhower said 90 percent of the crimes in the city are in some way drug related. Every time police make a heroin arrest, he said, they hear of six or seven more people who are using the powerful, highly addictive and often-deadly drug.
“Sometimes it feels to us like we’re sticking our finger in a leaky dam,” said Umbenhower, who also noted that the “south end of Naperville is ground zero in the fight against heroin right now.”
He and the other speakers drove home repeatedly their call for collaboration to counter heroin trafficking and use.
“There’s too few of us and too many of you, and you’ve got to help us out with this,” Ferguson said.
Parents comprise the front lines, the experts said. Each of them urged the audience members to lose their reluctance to question what’s going on with their kids, or in their neighborhoods. Instead they must use their power, they said, to help save lives, and do it in a unified way.
“Addicts know how to play family members against each other,” Umbenhower said.
They’re willing to do desperate things as well, to satiate their craving for the high. It worsens after the addiction results in the loss of their jobs.
“Then they sell their stuff, then they sell your stuff, and then they sell their bodies,” Ferguson said.
Those hooked on heroin also find ways to avoid being discovered, injecting it in their tongue, behind the ear or knee, or the webbing between their fingers or toes, or behind the convenient mask provided by a tattoo.
“They’re extremely good at hiding it,” Umbenhower said.
And if they are cornered, they often will conceal the contraband in a body cavity.
“An addict is very devious,” he said.
He or she also is more than willing to travel to get the next fix. Chicago’s west side — an area east of Cicero Avenue between Madison Street and Roosevelt Road that’s known as “K Town” because it encompasses Kildare, Kostner and Kilpatrick avenues and other streets beginning with the letter K — is a common destination for suburban users looking to score. Sometimes they aren’t willing to wait until they get home to feel the high, and have been known to shoot up while driving down the Eisenhower Expressway, the detectives said.
“If you feel that we have nothing to do with the violence, the drug war that’s going on in Chicago, you’re wrong,” said Ferguson, insisting that the community must deal with the local appetite for heroin. “We’re bringing that demand that’s fueling those drug wars. ... It’s all about money.”
Ferguson’s portion of the Power Point presentation included a series of graphic photographs taken at heroin overdose death scenes. The audience took in the gruesome images in stunned silence. Some showed the expulsion of a tinged liquid that indicates pulmonary edema, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs that causes the user to suffocate.
“It’s called ‘the brown drown,’” Ferguson said, showing another photo of a fresh young corpse. “That’s somebody’s baby. Somebody watched him walk across the stage at graduation, watched him take his first steps.”
He pointed out that the drug — which has claimed eight lives in Will County since Jan. 1 and has some 100 likely users known to police, scattered across all parts of Naperville — does not discriminate.
“This affects everybody — prince, pauper — everybody in this town,” he said.
Groll said a heroin high costs less than a movie ticket, and implored the audience to be vigilant for the behaviors that lead kids to try heroin — particularly the experimentation with alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs that typically launches the treacherous journey.
“If you think kids are coming to your house and not going through your medicine cabinets, you’re wrong,” she said.
When the pharmaceutical mood alterations run out, or they’re hidden, or they no longer do the trick, teens commonly move on to the next thing they can find. Often it’s a matter of a text message or two, or a Facebook query, to find ecstasy, cocaine or heroin.
“When they’re bored, when they’re not getting high enough, they move on to the next drug,” Groll said.
The law enforcement and treatment professionals know the message they bear isn’t something people want to hear. Ferguson, who has spoken on the topic numerous times in his four years as a drug cop, was gratified to have a roomful of rapt listeners for his critical message.
“We started doing this with 10 people showing up,” he said. “Something flipped.”
Umbenhower was also heartened by the massive turnout for the presentation.
“Each time it gets a little bigger,” he said, surveying the standing-room-only crowd. “But I don’t think we expected this.”