West Side Chicago Open Air Drug Market
Chicagoans are consuming more than beer and deep dish pizzas these days; the city's rapidly growing drug problem is being fueled by the West Side's open-air drug market.
Authorities in Chicago are growing increasingly concerned over the buying and selling of drugs in what they are calling the “West Side drug market”. Chicago journalist, Mick Dumke, describes it as
an open air market. You can go up and order what … you’re looking for.
The drug market is known for supplying users with a variety of illegal substances that range from street drugs like heroin and crack to prescription medications like Xanax and oxycodone. Authorities are growing particularly concerned with the rapid increase in amount of heroin being used in the city, though, and for good reason. The state of Illinois was ranked 44th in the country for patients admitted to treatment centers for heroin. But Chicago is currently #1 for heroin users landing in the emergency room, an ignominious title that’s likely to hold for a while: a recent wave of 74 overdoses in a mere 72 hours was reported just last week.
“Heroin in particular is abundant, and the price of heroin is quite low. The drug business is booming. It’s outdoors [so] it allows easy ingress and egress from the purchase. Walk up, walk away, drive up, drive away.”
Darker Side of Chicago
Drug use in Chicago has long been a concern, but the West Side has been hit exceptionally hard lately. Users have actually been seen lined up outside waiting to score. In an effort to combat the growing epidemic, an investigation has been launched by the Chicago Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration that has yielded 382 arrests this year alone on top of many drug seizures.
However, authorities feel that making arrests, while an important piece of the puzzle, isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem as a whole.
“Where we have success, it takes an awful lot of work, [but] putting police out there isn’t going to fix it. Narcotics is a criminalized problem. Law enforcement isn’t going to fix it, and I think it’s time we recognize that and come up with a plan to address it in a different fashion.”
There are efforts being made by local recovery organizations opting to spend their time and money traveling around the city with clean needles and syringes for users, but that effort alone isn’t enough. The city still needs more resources, which are becoming harder and harder to come by as funding for addiction services has been cut and many major rehabs are shutting their doors.