Parents shed light on suburban DuPage County heroin epidemic

September 24, 2013 (ELMHURST, Ill.)

It's not guns, knives or even car crashes that are the most common killers in DuPage County-- it's drugs. More people died from overdose in DuPage County last year than were killed in traffic accidents.

John Roberts joined other families in Elmhurst who hope their experiences will help raise awareness and help fight drugs.

"Those words are burned into my brain, 'Mr. Roberts, I don't think Billy is breathing,'" said John Roberts, whose son died from a heroin overdose.

Four years ago this month, John Roberts lost his son Billy. He was a cop, yet powerless to stop heroin's grip.

"I often refer to it as the epidemic no one is talking about," said Roberts.

On Tuesday night, people heard firsthand the ease with which young people in the collar counties can find heroin. A high can come as cheap as $10. The first time can kill you.

"We've had 72 deaths in the past 20 months, that's an astonishing number," said Robert Berlin, DuPage County State's Attorney.

Experts encourage parents to look for indicators of heroin use, including a sudden change in appearance, recklessness with little fear of consequences, and a runny nose, needle marks or lack of motivation.

"He hated what it took from him," said Felicia Miceli, whose son died from a heroin overdose.

Felicia Miceli's son Louie died two years ago. The Medinah mom says it was nearly nine months after her Louie started using that they caught on.

"He was really good at hiding it. A very popular kid, had a job. It's not until the disease progresses that those warning signs became evident," said Miceli.

Police and prosecutors refer to the Eisenhower Expressway as the "Heroin Highway." They say many in the suburbs are able to drive easily and affordably to the West Side of Chicago, buy their drugs, and then bring them back to the suburbs.

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