As the third-largest city in the United States, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find that Chicago is home to some of the most significant substance abuse issues in the United States.
In 2020, the Chicago Field Division recorded nearly 600 opioid-related overdose deaths from January to June—a 50% increase from the same time period in 2019. Most of these overdoses were caused by Fentanyl, followed by heroin. This makes Chicago one of the top 10 cities with the most opioid deaths, and one of the most drug-infested cities in the county.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about drug use in Chicago, including its history, statistics, and commonly abused drugs. We also listed some of the best drug rehabs in Chicago, Illinois if you or someone you know need help with their drug addiction.
Table of Contents
- History of Drug Use in Chicago
- Common Types of Drugs Abused in Chicago
- Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths in Chicago 2019 to 2020
- Alcohol & Drug Rehab Centers in Chicago, IL
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a Rehab Center
- Wrapping Up
- Additional Resources
Chicago has a long and comprehensive history of drug and alcohol abuse. It began in the early 1800s, fueled by immigrants introducing their drug of choice into its streets.
In the 19th century, whiskey was the city’s drink of choice due to its cheap, easy-to-transport, nonperishable nature. Ale was just as widely available and could be purchased in grocery stores, department stores, and saloons.
With the introduction of mass-production distillers in the 1880s, lager beer quickly became the go-to drink option for working-class men and women, as well as teenagers.
In the 1870s, Chinese immigrants started selling opium on Chicago’s busy streets. Though users were punished heavily by law enforcement, it didn’t dissuade citizens from getting their hands on the drug.
To avoid the punishment, opium users found a workaround: instead of buying the drug from the streets, they purchased prescription laudanum and opium-rich medicines from doctors.
With limited therapeutic alternatives, doctors eagerly prescribed these opiated medications, unaware of the sheer damage they were doing to their middle-class patients until later.
By the turn of the 20th century, progressive-era laws regulated the sale of these medications. But yet another problem reared its head: cannabis.
Near the end of the twentieth century, cocaine became a particularly serious concern of not only Chicago but Illinois as a whole.
At the beginning of the 21st century, heroin rose in popularity. The drug became so problematic that a law called Emergency Heroin Treatment Law was enacted, allowing doctors to administer a prescription drug that reversed the effect of heroin and other opiates.
Despite the increasing efforts of law enforcement, drug users across Chicago continue to seek out their next hit.
Between 2005 to 2010, nearly 15% of the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville MSA populace used illicit drugs—1.2% higher than the state’s illicit drug consumption and nearly the same as the national usage of 14.7%.
Today, Chicago continues to fight the consumption of illicit substances. The state’s vast infrastructure, large volume of legitimate trade, and large population and demographics make it one of the country’s most significant drug trafficking hubs.
Chicago acts as one of the biggest collection and consolidation points for drug transactions. In the state, drugs are either laundered by money-laundering organizations or smuggled in bulk from the Southwest Border to Mexico.
Mexican cartels dominate the wholesale supply of illegal drugs in the region, according to a report published by the Chicago Field Division. The most commonly abused drugs in Chicago are as follows:
- MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)
While most of these drugs are obtained illegally, some are legal and easily obtainable without a prescription. Marijuana, for example, became legal for recreational use in Illinois on January 1, 2020. While restrictions exist, this new law makes it easier for people to use and abuse marijuana and potentially become addicted.
Heroin trafficking has long since been a concern within Chicago’s law enforcement, especially as abuse continues to occur at alarming levels.
But as of late, fentanyl is becoming the key driver of the opioid epidemic in Chicago. In 2022, Chicago police seized more than 7,000 grams of Fentanyl powder and 400,000 Fentanyl pills, alongside nearly 43,000 grams of meth.
From January to June 2020, Chicago experienced nearly 7,300 opioid-related EMS responses and 573 opioid-related deaths. Of these deaths, more than 50% involved heroin, and more than 80% involved Fentanyl.
|January to June 2019||January to June 2020|
|Name of Drug||No. of Deaths||Total Percentage||Rate of Prevalence||No. of Deaths||Total Percentage||Rate of Prevalence|
To combat the ever-growing drug problem in Chicago, more than 300 accredited alcohol and drug rehab centers were established. Here are some of the most well-known rehab centers in the city:
- Address: 867 North Dearborn Street
Founded in 1997, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is an acclaimed outpatient treatment center that offers comprehensive alcohol and drug rehab services. It specializes in dual diagnosis, family programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rational behavioral therapy.
- Address: 1706 N Kedzie Avenue
The Gateway Foundation Kedzie Recovery Home is a drug and alcohol rehab facility that offers inpatient and outpatient rehab. It has been around for more than 50 years, serving as a meeting place for patients to receive addiction treatment. It specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step facilitation therapy, and group counseling.
- Address: 2942 W Lake Street
Located in west Chicago, the Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center is a nonprofit outpatient treatment center that offers free addiction treatment to anyone in need. The facility uses the most recent, evidence-based care available, like logotherapy, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), and SMART recovery.
- Address: 5517 N Kenmore Avenue
The LSSI Addiction Treatment Center is an inpatient and outpatient treatment center that offers a multitude of custom treatments. Depending on the patient’s case, treatment can include drug detox, sober living, or individual therapy.
Most of its services are fully covered by most insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. It also offers financial aid to those without insurance.
- Address: 41W400 Silver Glen Rd, St. Charles
The Recovery Centers of America at St. Charles is a luxury inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center.
The facility is situated on a 125-campus surrounded by trees and lakes. Patients receive tried-and-true evidence-based clinical therapies, as well as a variety of specialized services like 12-step programming and transformative family therapy.
Admission is costly, but it does accept private insurance.
With hundreds of treatment facilities to choose from, finding the right rehab center that fits your needs may prove a challenge. To help you with your search, consider the following factors:
Drug rehabilitation centers specialize in all sorts of treatments, from inpatient treatments to outpatient treatments. No one type of care is better than the others, but you might find one more suited for your individual needs.
If you have a preference, search for a facility that accommodates that type of care. If you’re unsure of the type of care you need, consult a healthcare specialist and he/she may point you in the right direction.
Most rehab centers have their treatment programs listed on their website. Common treatment programs include:
- Detoxification programs
- Residential treatment
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Individual counseling
- Family therapy
- 12-step programs
- Aftercare programs
Decide on a budget and create a list of facilities that fit your needs. Some rehab facilities accept insurance while others are completely free, like the Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center.
Beware of “patient brokers” as they’re hired to bring in patients in exchange for kickbacks and/or financial incentives. Patient brokers are not only illegal but also fundamentally problematic, as these individuals are far more eager to make a sale pitch than care about your health.
If the costs and perks sound too good to be true, it’s worth contacting the facility directly to verify the costs directly.
The cost of rehab can range from free to upwards of $50,000 per month, depending on the location of the facility, the amenities offered, and the intensity of the program. If the program isn’t covered by insurance, alternative options are available to help you pay for rehab. These include:
- Personal loans
- Private health insurance
- Medicaid and Medicare
- The Affordable Health Care Act
The facility’s environment plays a major role in addiction treatment, especially if you’re planning to apply for residential care.
Ask yourself this: is the center clean? Is it quiet? Does it offer private rooms? Do the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff value the comfort of their patients?
The more amenities a facility has, the higher the cost of rehab. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible during your treatment, so it’s up to you to decide which amenities you value most. Examples include:
- Art and music therapy
- Swimming pools
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic services
Outpatient treatment programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, while inpatient programs can last up to a year. For serious cases of drug abuse, providers recommend at least 60 or 90-day programs as long-term treatment offers higher rates of success.
30-day programs are usually offered to patients with financial, familial, and professional commitments as they can’t be away for extended durations. Ensure that you can devote the specified time to fully benefit from the provided treatment.
As a patient, you’ll spend at least 70% of your time interacting with staff. Therefore, it’s imperative that you choose a facility with knowledgeable and experienced employees. Take the time to look at staff members’ certifications and tenures, and don’t be shy to ask questions about your psychiatrist’s specialization.
It’s also worth looking through the facility’s reviews, as this is where you’ll find how the staff treated its previous patients. If the facility has multiple 1 and 2-star reviews stating mistreatment, it’s best to steer clear of the facility regardless of the certification.
Moreover, make sure that the facility isn’t understaffed. The center must have a staff-to-patient ratio of about 5:1, meaning that every five patients are cared for by at least one staff member. This ensures that you won’t lack the treatment needed due to staffing issues.
There are over 300 drug and alcohol rehab centers in Chicago, Illinois. Some of these centers offer low-cost, insurance-covered treatment, while others far exceed the average cost in exchange for more comprehensive care.
Choosing the right rehab facility is a sensitive and life-changing decision, so take the time to get to know the facility before you commit to it. Even if you don’t find a facility that ticks all your boxes, you’ll still be able to find an excellent treatment center that can put you on the right road to recovery.
- High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas in the US (2022): https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/HIDTA-Annual-Report-to-Congress-2022.pdf
- Illinois Mental Health and Substance Abuse Hotlines: https://nationalrehabhotline.org/illinois/
- Drug and Alcohol Rehab Facilities in Chicago: https://rehabs.com/local/chicago-il/
- Chicago Support Groups for Substance Abuse: https://sharenetworkchicago.org/resources/support-groups-substance-use