EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) – In 2009, nine people in Madison County Illinois died as a result of overdosing on heroin.
Last year, there were 26 heroin OD deaths — a nearly three-fold increase in just two years.
Arrests for heroin-related crimes exploded to 190 last year, up from 110 in 2010.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons says it’s time to go on the offensive for what he calls an “epidemic” in his large, rural county.
“The old thinking about heroin was that it was a dirty, junkie drug found in back allies and slums,” Gibbons points out. “Well, that may have been back in the day, but today our stereotypical user is about 26, 27 old…a white man or woman.”
On this Thursday, Gibbons’ latest stop on his tour of civic organization meetings is the Rotary Club gathering at First Christian Church in Edwardsville.
Everywhere he goes he preaches the gospel of “Lock Your Meds”, with the idea being that prescription drugs filched from the medicine cabinets of family and friends serve as a gateway that can eventually lead to a full-blown heroin habit.
“This program is something that’s been borne out of what we’ve learned through our anti-heroin initiative,” Gibbons explains. “What we’re learning is a lot of the addicts, people who become addicted to heroin, started with prescription pills.”
He says 70% of “young people” who illegally take prescription pills obtain them from friends and family members.
“A lot of folks are unknowingly becoming a source for illegal prescription pill abuse,” Gibbons says.
He wants people who legitimately take prescription drugs to put them in a safe or lockbox, and to periodically dispose of pills that have expired or they no longer need.
Gibbons’ office is working with the DEA and local police to set up prescription drug dropboxes throughout the county.
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