Addiction in Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois, the Windy City, has been battling its opioid problem for years. Open air drug markets, children born in withdrawal, and the presence of Mexican Drug Cartels hold the city down. What will it take to get Chicago out of the grips of addiction?
Chicago’s Opioids Out in the Open
Chicago has had a long history of opioid abuse, before the nationwide crisis we’ve found ourselves in. The city’s open-air markets have been popping up since the 1980s. When the police or community are able to close one down, another pops up. This has kept the community susceptible to the influence of drugs and the cartels that control them.
Deaths by opioids have grown exponentially each year. In 2014, 212 people in Cook County, where Chicago is located, died from opioids. 129 of them were in the city itself. Two years later, deaths in Chicago alone had exploded to 764, a 260% increase over the total county deaths in 2014. Separate from the number of deaths, the number of ER visits from opioid overdoses jumped 66% across the state of Illinois.
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Fentanyl in Chicago
Fentanyl, an opioid analogue 100 times more potent than morphine, was responsible for 20 of the opioid-related deaths in 2014. The synthetic opioid is extremely potent and is usually undetectable when mixed with other drugs, making it very easy to overdose. Dealers have started using fentanyl in other drugs without telling their sellers, to cut costs and increase potency. In 2016, the number of opioid deaths that involved fentanyl grew to 400.
ER visits from opioid-related overdose climbed 66% in 2017.
Opioids caused 764 deaths in 2016. A new peak for the Windy City.
Across Illinois, 391 infants were born with NAS in 2016.
The Children of Chicago: Born into Addiction
If the overwhelming presence of illicit drugs wasn’t enough, more children every year are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). These are children born with symptoms of withdrawal, particularly opioid withdrawal, from their mother’s using drugs while they were pregnant. In 2016, three in every 1,000 infants were born with NAS. That is three in every 1,000 infants who will spend an extra 10 days in the hospital and cost nearly $30,000 more than a child born without NAS.
Children born with NAS in Illinois cost $24 million in 2016.
Despite the hard work put in by the hospital staff working to fight this epidemic of NAS across the country, rates have grown five fold over 10 years, and a child born with NAS often isn’t cured. Rather, they are frequently left with long-term disabilities, cognitive issues, and problems with comprehension.
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The Presence of Mexican Cartels in Chicago
Chicago is one of America’s most violent cities. This is, in part, due to the presence of Mexican drug cartels. When multiple cartels get their grips into a city, it is nearly impossible to get them to let go. Chicago has become a major hub for dealing and distribution throughout the Midwest, and the open-air markets create a powerful position for the cartels and can’t be shut down.
Perhaps the greatest danger to come out of this is the power vacuums that come out of shifts in territory. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was capture and extradited. The battle between other drug-trafficking organizations, (DTOs), led the homicide rate in Chicago to peak in 2016 at 764 deaths.
Finding Help in Chicago
Recovering from addiction is a strenuous process. If someone recovering also lives in a destructive environment, like many parts of Chicago, it can make their process even more difficult. No doubt, finding a clinic that can help them detox, recover, and stay sober is invaluable. If you or someone you know are battling addiction, consider seeking help. Combating addiction on your own makes relapse more likely. If you don’t know where to look for help, try reaching out to a dedicated treatment provider. They are here to help you in your time of need.