Old Drug, New Problem

The Giesel family of Naperville knows first-hand how heroin can rip the fabric of a family apart. Their cousin Reed Hruby died of a heroin overdose in 2008 after being clean and sober for more than two years.

“We would see the pain in his eyes and the pain in his voice, and we knew he was losing the battle,” said Brenda Giesel, Reed’s Aunt. “Once you start heroin the addiction takes over and ultimately you will die.”

While the Giesel children stayed clear of heroin because of their cousin, they’ve seen friends struggle with addiction to the drug, and watched as some died. Last year 27 people in DuPage County died from heroin overdoses. The Giesel family believes that in order to prevent these deaths, schools need stronger heroin education programs.

“I see people use it in my school; they’ll go to the bathroom and use heroin, snort it,” said Tanner Giesel, Reed’s 17-year-old cousin. “It’s everywhere, it’s all over our school.”

“Children in high schools don’t know anything about it, they just use it and abuse it all the time,” said Bailie Giesel, Reed’s 18-year-old cousin. “You hear of kids dropping dead all the time from heroin overdoses, and it’s not taught in high schools at all.”

Today’s young adults are becoming the new faces of heroin. Officials say public treatment admissions for heroin among 18-24 year olds increased 140% in the last ten years, and that heroin is quickly becoming the drug of choice in DuPage County.

“A lot of the young adults or adolescents use Vicodin, Oxycontin, some of the opiate types of pills, and that gets expensive, so then they move on to heroin, at first snorting it, and then injecting it,” said Beth Sack, Manager of Addiction Services at Linden Oaks at Edward Hospital.

That’s a pattern the Hruby family hopes to stop. Members of the family donated money to the Robert Crown Centers for Health Education to create the Reed Hruby Heroin Prevention Project. Robert Crown staff plan to use the funds to create an educational program which will be the first of its kind in the nation.

“It’s about the brain and the triggers for addiction for high risks behaviors such as heroin use,” said Kathleen Burke, Chief Executive Officer for the Robert Crown Centers for Health Education. “Our goal is to head off the addiction before it consumes the life of another young person.”

While it’s too late for Reed Hruby, the Giesels hope to transform their family’s tragedy into a chance to save the lives of others.

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