Heroin use in Chicago has steadily increased over the past decade, to the point where it may be the worst in the country.
That's the conclusion from a new study by Roosevelt University, released Monday morning.
The Chicago area has seen an incredible spike in people admitted to emergency rooms for heroin-related problems. In fact, heroin is the most common illegal drug named as a reason when people enter treatment for substance abuse.
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of Illinois residents treated for heroin abuse skyrocketed from about 4,000 to over 17,000, the study finds.
And it's not just a city problem. Heroin-related deaths have increased in several counties, including Lake, McHenry, and Will.
The drug may have an urban, "back alley" reputation, but the study confirms what many authorities already know: heroin has become the drug of choice among white suburban teens.
"It's cheaper than a six-pack of beer, and it's easier to get. Drug dealers won't ask for I.D.," said Kathleen Kane-Willis, one of the authors of the study.
The report suggests more comprehensive drug education programs, increasing funding for substance abuse treatment, and passing legislation to provide partial or full immunity to people who call 911 to report a drug overdose.