BATAVIA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell had a simple message for those attending Thursday’s heroin abuse, prevention and community resources seminar at Batavia High School – don’t try heroin.
“Please don’t go down this road,” Russell said. “I don’t want to have to tell your loved ones that you are dead.”
Russell was one of several speakers who spoke at the seminar. As Russell noted, heroin use in Kane County is on the rise.
“In Kane County, we had 27 heroin deaths last year, and 14 so far this year,” he said.
There are people behind the numbers, such as 24-year-old Louie Miceli, one of 43 people in DuPage County who died of heroin abuse last year.
“Our hope is to reach teens and adults before heroin does,” said Kristen Gutierrez, executive director of LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation and Miceli’s older sister. “He had his whole life in front of him and heroin stole it away.”
She told those in the audience to watch for warning signs.
“Prescription drug abuse is a gateway to heroin,” Gutierrez said. “Addiction is a disease and the addiction is progressive.”
She said those kids experimenting with heroin don’t know that heroin is “so deadly and dangerous.”
As Mike Moran, executive director of Aurora-based Breaking Free drug counseling services explained, heroin is an opiate that brings the brain pleasure.
“All of our brains have pleasure centers,” he said. “There are certain substances that activate pleasure centers in our brains.”
And heroin is highly addictive, Moran said.
“Heroin is extremely effective in hijacking the brain,” he said. “You no longer have the choice of using or not using.”
Fortunately, there is hope, said recovering heroin addict Richard Hertz.
“I’ve been six years and six months free from heroin,” Hertz told the audience. “You can be stronger than it and you can prevent it. We all want to stop this addiction from starting in the first place.”