Candlelight vigil hopes to bring awareness to drug addiction, overdose deaths

93,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose in 2020, according to the CDC

Michelle Gallardo Image
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Vigil hopes to bring awareness to drug addiction, overdoses
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Drug overdoses are up 29% in 2020, CDC says.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A candlelight vigil was held Saturday in Chicago Heights, in hopes of bringing awareness to drug addiction and overdoses.

Breana Betancourt's birthday was supposed to be on March 22, but died from a drug overdose in 2019 with drugs that were purchased just up the street from City Hall -- the site where she, along with other victims of drug overdoses, were remembered this weekend.

"I felt like I was supposed to take this tragedy and turn it around," said Aisha Betancourt, who lost her daughter to a drug overdose. "Anybody who knew my daughter knew she was so friendly. She could talk to anybody. All walks of life. She was bold, she was fun. I do believe this is what she would have wanted.

Ninety-three thousand Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose in 2020. That number is 29% higher than it was the year before.

RELATED: Drug overdose deaths spike amid COVID-19 pandemic

According to the CDC, Fentanyl -- a substance that's increasingly being found in more and more drugs-- was involved in nearly 2/3 of them.

"I lost my husband on August 25, 2018, from a heroin fentanyl overdose," said Anna Ippolito.

It is why during the overdose awareness event, Ippolito, along with others who've experienced the same loss, handed out informational resources. They also gave out free doses of Narcan, which is a drug known to treat opioid overdose if administered in time.

"I'm a Narcan survivor. I have my own story," said Kimberly Ramirez, a former addict who lost two brothers to drug overdose. "I became a drug addict; I was a drug addict. I was an IV user and I am not ashamed to say that today. I lost two brothers and the education needs to get out there."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is help. You can call the statewide helpline at 1(833) 234-6343 or text "Help" to 833234 to find the first step to recovery.