Chicago Heights event shows parents how to recognize drug use amid increase in overdose deaths

'I know he didn't want to die. I know he didn't want to leave us,' said Lisa Prox, who lost her son, Chad, to drug abuse.

Michelle Gallardo Image
Sunday, August 28, 2022
South suburban event shows parents how to recognize drug use
What is fentanyl? A Chicago Heights event showed parents how to recognize drug use as the opioid epidemic rages on with increased overdose deaths.

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Hidden in plain sight, one trailer is a mockup of a teenager's bedroom.

Its purpose is to show parents where and how their child might be disguising a drug habit.

"For example, a water bottle. If you look at it you'd think it came right off the shelf at a grocery store, but if you know what you're doing, you just twist the top and open it and there is a hidden compartment inside," said John Roberts of the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization.

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On Sunday, the trailer was parked at Chicago Heights' Commissioner's Park for a gathering and fundraiser none of these families would have wished to have become a part of. Nearly everyone there had lost a loved one to drug abuse.

Lisa Prox lost her son, Chad, on Sept. 2 in 2019.

"I know he didn't want to die. I know he didn't want to leave us," Prox said.

The gathering is one of several that took place across Chicago Heights Sunday, including pop-ups outside local grocery stores and other businesses ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day. Rachel Carlisle lost her daughter, Mariah Earp, in May 2020. She said counterfeit drugs were to blame.

"She took what she thought was a safe prescription, and it was not, and that's all it took, was a pill," Carlisle said.

Overdose-related deaths have skyrocketed nationally since 2019, increasing by over 50%. According to the CDC, there were 93,655 in 2020. Provisional numbers from 2021 show that number at 107,622.

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Opioids and specifically, fentanyl-laced drugs, are being blamed for much of the increase.

"Now, it's don't even experiment, don't do anything, don't take anybody's word for it. If it's not coming from a pharmacy that you, yourself got a script for, do not take it," Carlisle said.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, the Illinois Helpline is available statewide and reachable 24/7 either by phone, text or online at