Every major city in America has certain parts in it that are known to be riddled with drugs. People from surrounding suburbs oftentimes travel to these parts of the city to obtain their drugs, whether they stay there to use or bring them back home. A commonly held belief among the general public was that most of the heroin on the streets was being purchased in major cities, and then consumed in the suburbs. However, researchers at Roosevelt University released a study that shows just how heroin abuse is wreaking havoc on the city of Chicago, particularly the West Side.
According to the research, almost 25% of all opiate-related hospitalizations in Illinois stem from users in this party of the city. The full report is called Hidden in Plain Sight: Heroin’s Impact on Chicago’s West Side.
This information comes at a time when people all over the country are calling for more treatment options and less punishment for those who are addicted to opiates. In an area like Chicago’s West Side, hundreds of people are struggling with heroin addictions and have nowhere to get help.
While there are a number of treatment options, there are often waiting lists involved or other barriers such as financial assistance and location. The problem in this part of the city has far out-paced other areas in Chicago and its suburbs.
“People seem to understand that heroin use is a public health problem and it needs to be treated like one, not just in the suburbs but on the West Side [of Chicago] too. We need more treatment — not arrests — to get ahead of this crisis,” exclaimed Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University.
While this study is specific to Chicago, researchers are pointing out that these statistics are not unique to this city. We must continue to implement successful measures to mitigate the damage and loss caused by opioid addiction, from providing more naloxone for overdose prevention to diverting more non-violent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail. All forms of intervention are valid and helpful at this state to reduce the epidemic.