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Suburban mom continues drug abuse information crusade

PJ Newburg talks seminar teen herouse north northwest suburbs library Glenview. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media

PJ Newburg talks at a seminar on teen heroin use in the north and northwest suburbs at the library in Glenview. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 5, 2013 6:10AM



Eleven people personally close to Stephanie Kuhns have died from drug overdoses.

Heroin also killed her brother.

Now in recovery and clean, the 24-year-old Kuhns, of Lake Zurich, has struggled with drugs, overdosed three times, went on a six-month bender and at one time weighed 90 pounds.

“This drug gets in your head and doesn’t leave. Your dreams vanish,” she said.

Kuhn participated Thursday night in a forum at the Glenview Public Library for discussing teenage heroin use in the Chicago suburbs.

Over the past year, former Glenview resident P.J. Newberg started the crusade by speaking at public libraries in Glenview, Northbrook and Wilmette and at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis.

Her daughter, Paula Nixon, is a drug addict and in 2010 dropped out of Glenbrook High School in Glenview when she landed in a drug rehabilitation center.

Nixon’s stays in rehabs and hospitals have been many since she took up injecting the opium narcotic in 2010, proceeding by cocaine and alcohol use.

In January 2011, Nixon lost her boyfriend who died of opiate intoxication, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Cook County Sheriff’s Police arrived at his home and found a syringe and a spoon with residue under a couch where the 19-year-old was sitting in a living room.

Nixon was supposed to join her mother at Thursday’s forum.

“She didn’t make it. She was in rehab but left. Paula is now living on the South Side of Chicago with some nasty guy,” she told about 30 attendees and Glenview Police Cmdr. Don Hohs.

Kuhn and Newberg adamantly believed hard drug use among teenagers and young adults are out of control.

“We have to get rid of the stigma around addiction and talk to our kids about it. There is help,” said Newberg, a former certified counselor in drug and alcohol counseling, with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University in 1988.

A few weeks ago she was invited to address students at New Trier High School in Wilmette, but without explanation it was cancelled.

“Something happened at the top,” Newberg said.

Newberg also said she wrote the Glenbrook High School Board of Education a letter explaining the wide use of drugs among teenagers, but no one replied.

“It would be ignorant to say there are no drugs. Marijuana, heroin and illegal pharmaceuticals are the worst,” Hohs said.

He advised people not to confront others they see using drugs.

“Just call 911. We rely on citizens as extensions of our eyes and ears,” he said.

Hohs said educating young people early on drug abuse prevention was the best solution.

“But many teens today lack confrontational skills and succumb to peer pressure. Parents, police, the community and families must work together.”

Newberg always brings drug-abuse literature and studies to the forums, from which she often quotes.

According to the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, for instance, overdose deaths from 2007 to 2011 increased 115 percent from 13 to 28 in Lake County.

Significant increases also were documented in McHenry and Will counties, but DuPage showed a 7 percent decrease.

“Cook County does not keep overdose death records. I don’t know why,” Newberg said.



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