Heroin use increases among teens

April 2, 2010 4:29:02 AM PDT
Heroin use among high school and college students is on the rise all over the country, and Chicago is no exception.

The drug is highly addictive and deadly. ABC 7's Sarah Schulte talked with the parents of a Chicago college student who overdosed this week.

Irene and Joseph Bryan thought their daughter was on the road to recovery until they received the phone call that every parent fears. Elia Bryan overdosed last weekend. While it is too late for the Byrans, they want other families to understand the horrible consequences of heroin use.

Elia Bryan came to Chicago from Boston to attend college. The 21-year-old was a talented artist who just told her mother she wanted to become an architect.

:"My daughter was beautiful vibrant, full of promise," said Irene Bryan, Elia's mother.

But there is no promise. Last weekend, Bryan died of a suspected overdose. Her parents say they had no idea their daughter was a heroin addict until Elia's college professor called them last fall.

"I was stunned. I felt like that is not the type of drug that a regular young daughter going to college would pick," said Irene Bryan.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says heroin is exactly the drug that young women and men are picking.

The DEA says heroin use is on the rise in the Chicago area, with suburban kids coming to the inner-city to buy it.

"You have no idea what you are using, you have no idea the composition of what it is you are ingesting in your body," said David Cohen, substance abuse counselor.

Cohen knows firsthand. He is a former heroin addict who now works as a substance abuse social worker.

On his 21st birthday Cohen tried heroin for the first time and almost died.

"My breathing stopped. The paramedics were called within six hours. I was found blue. I was in a coma. I woke up nine days later," Cohen said.

Cohen says the first thing he did when he was released from the hospital was buy more heroin. The drug is highly addictive. Users say it gives them a euphoric high that completely masks any kind of pain.

While Irene and Joseph Bryan provided their daughter will plenty of help, they now realize that recovery is a personal choice, no matter what parents do to help.

"In the end, it is in your children's hands and for the youth that listen to these things, the choose is with you," said Joseph Bryan, Elia's father.

Given her young age, the Bryans say, their daughter felt as though she could survive anything.

Drug counselor David Cohen says early detection is key. He says parents and schools need to be taught how to screen for potential addiction. He says signs to look for include pinpoint pupils, green pasty looking skin, sleeping a lot and a loss of interest in activities they one time enjoyed.