"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

Chicagoans Battle With Opioids


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that come in different forms including prescription and synthetic forms. Opioids are addictive as they initially start out as painkillers for those who need them. Over time, users begin to become dependent upon the drug and begin to abuse it.

The prescription form of opiate drugs is given to relieve moderate to severe pain. Opioids have chemicals that block pain signals between the brain and the body. These blockages cause people to feel relaxed, happy, or “high”.

Long-term use of the drug causes a high tolerance and dependence for pain relief, leading to addiction. Once this addiction is established, it is difficult to break away from the habit of ingesting the opiate drug.

Withdrawing from opiates without a progressive decrease in dosage causes people to experience aggression, irritability, and nausea. These effects on the body and brain can lead people to make great strides to obtain the drug, even if the synthetic form is the only option.

Fentanyl and heroin are the most common variations of synthetic opiates. These variations can exist in powder, solid, or melted down into a liquid substance. In prescription form, opiate drugs appear in the form of morphine, oxycodone, and methadone.

A large part of the opioid addiction that exists in Illinois is due to accessibility. Opioids exist in pharmacies, local communities, and prisons around the city.

Because it is difficult to track and stop opioids, federal officials have made efforts to stop addiction.

According to WTTW news, “Cook County Jail has been selected as one of 15 jails across the country to receive a grant from Arnold Ventures, national philanthropy headquartered in Houston, Texas, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to expand medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction in jails”.

Not only does this issue affect the general population, but vulnerable groups as well. Opioid addiction consumes not only those who are currently addicts but can also make it harder for people who are trying to remain sober of the drug. These treatments offered in jails work to curb addiction and prevent non-users from accessing the drug.

As with many other drugs, opioid addiction can cause an overdose if one consumes too much of the drug, or if a person uses the drug for a continued amount of time

According to the Cook County Department of Public Health, 746 people died from opioid-related overdoses. 65.7 percent of those deaths were heroin involved, 56.7 percent were fentanyl-involved. These statistics highlight the widespread issue that exists within the city of Chicago.

In addition to overdosing on the drug, people can die from ingesting the drug in a way that is unsanitary and infectious. This form of death is called Injected Drug Use(IDU). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, persons living in Illinois who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C Prevalence (HCV) did so in part to IDU among other factors.

While the opiate issue in Illinois is widespread and severe for users, their families, and their communities, there are ways to stop the problem.

Naloxone is a drug that acts as an opioid antagonist. This drug can be used in emergency situations to stop a person from overdosing on the drug.

In addition to using Naloxone, people can receive assistance in overcoming their addiction with attending rehabilitation centers, and informer their doctor about their addiction.

The issue with dissolving the opioid addiction in the state of Illinois is access to resources. Very few people have access to clean needles, rehabilitation, the Naloxone prescription, and addiction counselors.

In order to combat the problem, the state of Illinois must allocate more funding into prevention for all people regardless of their socioeconomic status. Regardless of race, class, or income, opioid addiction affects all.

Written by Ciera Johnson


WTTW News: Cool County Jail Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment Opioid Addiction
National Institue on Drug Abuse: Illinois Opioid Summary
Cook County Department of Public Health: Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths in Cook County, IL, 2016 January 2018

Top image Courtesy of Ted Van Pelt’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Vorobiev Detox’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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