NDEWS launched in 2014, with 12 sentinel sites, which included the Chicago metro area, centered at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Chicago’s sentinel site began collecting data in 2015, and the latest NDEWS report on the metro area covered information from 2017, published n 2018. Each report, including the most recent one, contains snapshots with graphics to understand the site’s trends in relation to larger national trends; interpretations of findings in narrative form; and data tables to standardize treatment admissions data.
Information contained in these components of the report comes from the following sources:
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
- Youth Risk Behavior Survey
- Local treatment admissions data
- National Vital Statistics System mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS)
Coalescing local and national data to track multiyear trends can help medical professionals understand a local area’s needs and how those may change over time.
Sentinel Site: The Chicago Metro Area
Data collected in Chicago regarding substance abuse in 2017 found the following:
- Alprazolam was the most widely abused benzodiazepine in the metro area based on seizures from law enforcement. Between 2011 and 2014, law enforcement seizure of alprazolam-related or alprazolam-containing substances increased 154 percent.
- Cocaine abuse appears to be on the decline. In 2012, the drug fell to the third most reported substance on NFLIS reports. It then declined 12.8 percent between 2015 and 2016, falling to the spot of the fourth most reported substance in 2015
- Marijuana is the most frequently reported substance of abuse in Chicago.
- Methamphetamine is uncommon in the Chicago metro area, except among a high-risk group: men who have sex with men. Meth is, however, often accidentally consumed by people who think they bought MDMA.
- Fifteen varieties of synthetic cannabinoids were documented. Declining abuse rates were seen for other synthetic substances like piperazine and tryptamine.
- Heroin is the primary opioid of abuse in Chicago, which is true for much of the United States. Heroin reports have been rising in Chicago since the 1990s.
- PCP, commonly known as angel dust, abuse has declined since 2007. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of reports declined from 585 to 115.
The NDEWS report goes into further depth regarding specifics of each of these pieces of information, discussing youth and adult abuse rates, how much law enforcement has seized in various years, and which populations are specifically at risk for this substance.
Other information on Chicago’s population covers abuse of alcohol and other substances as well as specific youth substance abuse rates.
- Between 2012 and 2014, 27 percent of people, ages 12 and older, in Cook County (containing the Chicago metro area) binge drank alcohol at least once in the past month.
- In that same three-year period, ei8ght percent of the population reported abusing marijuana at least once in the past month.
- About 3 percent of the population in those three surveyed years abused illicit drugs other than marijuana.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey for the Chicago area, which was conducted in 2013, found that 69 percent of high school students abused alcohol at least once in their lives; 50 percent abused marijuana; 7 percent abused cocaine; 10 percent abused inhalants; 8 percent abused MDMA; and 11 percent abused any type of prescription drug.
Substance Abuse Intertwines With Other Issues in Chicago
Further information contained in the report discusses local research highlights, including a study on cannabis use and abuse, and adherence to HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART). The study concluded that there were few effects of cannabis on ART, and abusing other drugs appeared to reduce adherence to a strict medication regimen. However, this could be associated with other problems that make illicit substance abuse worse, like struggling with housing issues.
Information from Chicago on infectious diseases and associated substance abuse found that, for the 13 consecutive years preceding 2014, new HIV diagnoses declined. There was a 6 percent reduction between 2010 and 2014, and a 48 percent reduction between 2001 and 2014.
Policy and law changes for the Chicago metro area dictated that pharmacists could dispense naloxone without a prescription. This is an extension of Good Samaritan laws that many local and state governments are adopting.
With a large, diverse population, Chicago’s information shows changes in problems affecting many areas in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Since there are medical institutions and resources for people struggling with drugs or alcohol, Chicago can gather anonymous information about treatment changes too. This data can be vital in allocating resources to areas of need.
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