8 Hospitalized After Free Heroin Samples Lead to Overdoses: Cops

Police say they're talking to a person of interest but have yet to identify a suspect after eight people were sent to the hospital Saturday due to suspected heroin overdoses.

Drug rehab experts say eight people are lucky to be alive after overdosing on suspected heroin. On Saturday, Chicago police received reports that a man was driving around 79th and East End on the South Side handing out free samples of heroin.

"They all passed out as a result of taking the bag," Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said.

For Deandre Williams Tells NBC 5 his friends have overdosed in the same area.

Being in this neighborhood with that going on, man it's like there's no hope," he said.

Johnson said it's not common to see that many overdoses so quickly.

Yet, addiction treatment centers like the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Chicago have seen a 30 percent increase in heroin users since 2010.

"Disgust is the first feeling I have and then fear," said Executive Director Ramsen Kasha.

Police don't know why the drug was handed out for free. It even baffles those at addiction treatment facilities.

"Sometimes dealers will use the strategy of giving some to people who find them, but to actually drive around and solicit people to take free samples, I don't think I've ever heard of that," Kasha said.

But Williams, a 20-year Avalon Park resident, says he's not surprised and that it's another sign of a neighborhood that needs support.

"We just continue to live here but at the end of the day, yeah I want better," he told NBC 5. "Yeah, I want to move to a nice home. Yeah, I want to be in the suburbs. But at the current pay rate, I can't do it. So I keep my baby boy out the street and and I stay out of the streets."

Police said Monday none of the eight people hospitalized have died.

It's also possible there could be more than one person who was handing out free samples of heroin.

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