SPECIAL REPORT: Fighting Heroin in Central Illinois

Local News

Overdosing on heroin used to be normal for 37-year-old Eric Webber.

“I knew I was gonna die, I overdosed several times, like 7 or 8 times, I had to be woken up by people giving me CPR,” he said.  

Webber became addicted to heroin the first time he tried it. Peer pressure from his friends left him chasing the high, and sent his life down a dark path of destruction.

“I had to have it every day, all day, um it cost me my job, my kids, my house, I mean I literally didn’t pay my bills, I didn’t pay my rent,” Webber said.

Heroin is what some doctors call the most addictive illegal drug. It’s become the leading cause of death in the United States, and shows no sign of slowing down, especially as the drug gets more powerful.  

“The rush or the activity of the drug happens so quickly that it’s immediately reinforcing, so there’s this immediate euphoria that occurs after injecting it.” 

Dr. Kirk Moberg runs the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery in Peoria. He sees new heroin addicted patients every day and has found a common theme with most of them.

“In some studies, as much as 80 percent of people start heroin, having already abused prescription opiates,” Dr. Moberg said.  

Those medications could have the same effect as heroin if they’re abused. For some, that’s when the addiction sets in, but for others like Webber, an addiction to other illegal drugs lead to heroin.

“It takes over your mind, it takes over your thoughts, it takes over your everything. I can’t really explain it, that’s just what addiction does,” Webber said.

It prevents many from getting help. Webber had been in recovery for 75 days when we talked to him, and the process usually takes seven months. Webber says the process isn’t easy for anybody. He’s failed several times before. 

“Once you’re addicted and you’re physically addicted, then it takes over your body and your mind, because all you can think about is getting high because if you don’t get high, you’ll sick,” Webber said.     

“Just the syndrome itself is a major motivator to want to use to get rid of all the symptoms, and as someone uses, the symptoms go away instantaneously,” said Dr. Moberg.

The syndrome is the biggest reason why many aren’t successful, especially if they don’t have a strong support system behind them.

“There’s times when, if I don’t have anything to do, I think about using, and it’s really hard sometimes, it really is,” Webber said.

This time, he’s determined to stay sober, and hopes to put his darkest days behind him before it’s too late. 

“A lot of my friends are dead, my family members are dead… I am going to do everything in my power to stay sober, I am staying sober, I’m so much happier, it’s awesome being sober,” Webber said. 

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