Take Tamara Olt and her husband, who were vacationing in Mexico last April when they got the call that every parent dreads. One of their sons was lying unconscious in his basement room at the family’s home in Dunlap, a small town in central Illinois.
Joshua Olt died in the emergency room that evening. He was 16.
“Heroin was the biggest shock of my life,” says Dr. Olt, an obstetrician and gynecologist. “The drug had never crossed my mind.”
Yet as more communities realize they have a problem, efforts to confront it are slowly gaining ground. Concerned parents, school administrators, and law-enforcement officials are holding town-hall meetings, forming support groups, and starting campaigns to discourage heroin use.
“We recognize that this is an emerging problem,” says Dianne McDonald, a curriculum director at two Joliet, Ill., high schools. “We want to be proactive.”
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, heroin use in the United States rose 66 percent between 2007 and 2011. The US Drug Enforcement Administration says seizures of heroin have doubled since 2008, and arrests have risen by a third. Most heroin comes from Asia, but more and more is arriving from South America and Mexico.