Heroin Highway Leads Teenage Lives To Ruin
Suburban Kids Take Interstate 290 To Buy Drugs On
The City's West Side
Jon Duncanson, Chicago Chanel 2 News, May 19,
CHICAGO Affluent suburban kids are the new
users. You may not think it could happen to your
as CBS 2’s Jon Duncanson reports, suburban youths
are turning on by driving down what might also be
called Heroin Highway.
“It takes about 15 minutes from right here,” Kris
He is talking about driving down Interstate 290, the
Eisenhower Expressway. It is a jet-shot drive where
suburban kids can score heroin in the time it takes
to say, “How can that be?”
“It was like going through a pharmacy,” a young
At the end point, as police video shows, there are
street deals where heroin is demonstrated to be the
poisoned passion for west suburban young people.
“People have an easy access point coming off the
expressway there, purchasing illegal drugs, getting
back on the expressway, and going back to the
suburbs,” said police Deputy Supt. Charles Williams.
Prendergast says it is an easy task for anyone in
search of a fix.
“You could be any age and take 290 and go onto the
West Side,” Prendergast said. “They don’t card you.”
Prendergast, now 23, was too young to drink when he
started heroin at the age of 14 as a student at
Addison Trail High School.
He took the heroin highway every day. It was an easy
off-ramp for a kid from the suburbs who today is
attending a drug rehabilitation program for the
“They hold signs – it’s ridiculous – like it’s a car
wash or something,” Prendergast said. “(It’s) like,
‘first two are free,’ and once you do those two,
obviously, you’re going to want more.”
The heroin is so accessible that in the past five
years, Chicago Police have nearly doubled the number
of arrests of suburban residents copping their fix.
David Tews, who runs Serenity House, a west suburban
live-in treatment facility, sees the other side of
“I’ve got a wait list of 50 people right now seeking
treatment,” Tews said, “a majority of those folks
are from Naperville, Wheaton, this area.”
And the reality is that affluent suburban parents
rarely realize that heroin sits easily within their
“We got handed cars when we were 16 years old just
for turning 16,” said one young Naperville woman who
did not wish to be identified. “Most people didn’t
have to have jobs after school, so you’ve just got
all this time and all this money and nothing to do.”
For the woman, it was a fall from basketball-playing
honor student to Heroin Highway junkie.
She knew her younger sister was using.
“But when I actually saw her physically going down
290 on the shoulder and pull off the same place I
was going is when it hit me how bad this is gotten,”
Heroin is cheap and accessible, and it is no longer
an inner city problem. Experts are calling out to
the suburbs – parents beware.
“People don’t want to talk about it,” Tews said.
“(They would say), ‘It’s not our problem. It’s not
here.’ It’s frightening because people don’t know
how to talk about it.”
Just how serious is the problem? Illinois State
Police report the majority of heroin users are, in
fact, young adults from the suburbs, and they don’t
look like stereotypical strung-out junkies.
Chicago Police say they have made good progress in
busting up street sales to kids from the suburbs on
the West Side. But they say the other side of that
issue is that dealers are increasingly taking
Interstate 290 themselves and heading out to the