Chicago uses tombstones to indicate heroin’s effect

Chicago counties have joined together to fight heroin addiction and overdoses by using tombstones, the Chicago Tribune reported. Residents like Audrey Albright, who lost her son to heroin addiction a few years ago, believe the tombstones are a great idea. Albright openly welcomed placing the tombstones in her yard.

The plastic foam tombstones will travel from place to place to show the effects of heroin on many areas in Chicago. There are about 100 tombstones to indicate the amount of people nationally who die each day from a heroin overdose. The displays also have three banners that sit across tombstones denouncing heroin addiction and its subsequent overdoses. Albright stated that the tombstones get a lot of attention in her yard. Many people will slow down to examine what the rather strange exhibit is for.

The rising rate of overdoses

No county in Chicago is safe from heroin overdoses, according to counties’ data from 2012. Will County reported 53 fatal overdoses. Lake County reached a record high of 33 fatal overdoses, and there were 27 in Kane County. Du Page County’s numbers almost doubled, from 23 deaths in 2007 to 43 in 2012. McHenry County also reached a record high of 16 deaths in 2012, the data stated.

The ignorance surrounding heroin use

The hosts of the tombstones believe that this is the first effective display that educates the public on the dangers of heroin. They stated that many people remain ignorant despite the vast numbers of heroin overdoses and deaths in the Chicago metropolitan and suburban areas. People often make note of heroin use and overdoses in other areas, but may not believe it happens in their town. Well, it does.

The exhibit was first used last year at a vigil for Stop Overdose Illinois, an organization that teaches people about using naloxone, a drug that can reverse a heroin overdose. However, the group felt that was not enough. They decided to bring the tombstones into some of the suburbs that have been most affected by heroin abuse. The tombstones have also been placed in front of a fire station and a 5K run.

The banners display messages such as “Opiate overdose is REVERSIBLE! Naloxone saves lives!”

The group noted that though law enforcement agencies are educated on naloxone, many residents do not know about it or how to use it. Parents or family members who know how to use the drug can save a person’s life while he or she is overdosing.

Pushing limits

Others, like Marian Huhman, worry if the message goes a little too far. Huhman is an assistant communication professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She noted that though the image is powerful, it could be pushing limits. Sometimes if a display is too much, people will choose to ignore it rather than acknowledge it, she told the Tribune.

Albright noted that though drivers are slowing down in front of her yard, she is unsure of the display’s effects. She hopes that the tombstones will educate members of her community and get others to realize the dangers of heroin and find the proper methods of treatment. The tombstones have gotten good recognition in the recovery community, causing the group to contemplate making a sturdier and more durable form of them.

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