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Saturday, December 2, 2023


Drug Addiction Treatment in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States, with over 2.7 million residents living in the city and over 10 million people residing in the Chicago metropolitan area. The City of Chicago is positioned alongside Lake Michigan, with this bustling region recognized as an important international hub for commerce, industry, technology, and transportation. The “Windy City” is also famous for its professional sports teams, well-respected educational institutions, and world class tourist attractions. Despite being famous as an important business center and architectural capital, however, Chicago also faces its fair share of poverty and drug abuse problems. With a heroin and prescription opioid epidemic sweeping across the city and other drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine also on the rise, access to professional drug treatment is more important than ever before. 

If you live in Chicago, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.
Aurora Recovery, The Recover

Demographics and Income in Chicago

During its heyday, Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the world. From less than 200 people in 1833 to a population of over 1 million in 1890, Chicago has always been a fast-paced and exciting place to live. In the 2010 census, there were roughly 2.7 million people living in the city itself, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the country. Chicago has always had an incredibly diverse racial profile, including 45 percent Whites, 33 percent African Americans, 29 percent Hispanics, 13 percent other races, and 5 percent Asian. With the third-largest LGBT population in the United States, Chicago is also an important center for gay, lesbian, and queer culture.

According to the latest US Census Bureau American Community Survey data estimates released in 2012, the median household income in Chicago was $47,408, with the median family income being $54,188.This means that 18.3 percent of Chicago families and 22.1 percent of the entire population live below the poverty line. Poverty is often linked to high levels of drug abuse and addiction, with low income areas also facing problems related to drug treatment access. While there are lots of affordable treatment services in and around the city of Chicago, waiting times can be an issue and treatment is often unavailable or inaccessible to those who need it most. A number of legal and illicit drugs are known to cause problems in Chicago, including heroin, prescription opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl, cocaine, crack cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana.

The Opioid Epidemic in Chicago

Like many places in the United States, Chicago is currently being hit by an opioid epidemic. The illegal street drug heroin continues to cause problems related to addiction and overdose, with prescription opioids also growing in popularity. According to figures released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin continues to be the biggest opiate problem in the city, ranking first in terms of publicly funded drug treatment and second for the number of seizures by police. Despite common stereotypes, new heroin users in Chicago are typically young White suburban residents. There were over 2,000 heroin overdose deaths in the state of Illinois between 2013 and 2015, with almost half of these deaths occurring in Chicago and its neighboring counties. The vast majority of these deaths occurred on Chicago’s west side, an area which also recorded a quarter of all opioid-related hospital admissions in Illinois. 

The rise in heroin use and changing demographic patterns of use are partly due to people migrating away from prescription opiates towards the potent street drug. Prescription opioids are a significant problem in Chicago, with hydrocodone the most widely abused opioid according to NIDA, followed by oxycodone. Prescription opioids are a huge problem across the United States, with prescription drugs now responsible for more deaths in America than vehicle accidents. Multiple drug treatment services are needed to help people recover from and manage opioid dependence, including medical detoxification clinics and rehabilitation centers. Authorities in Chicago and Illinois have made some important progress in an effort to reduce heroin and opioid fatalities, including the introduction of the Heroin Crisis Act which requires Medicaid to pay for substance abuse treatment, authorizes pharmacies and schools to dispense heroin reversal drugs, and promotes more reliable data collection among health treatment providers.  

Drug Rehab Assessment

People living with a drug or alcohol addiction need to receive treatment as soon as possible in order to prevent potential health complications and other problems. Before being admitted into treatment, patients need to be assessed by a doctor or professional counselor, with self-assessment also useful during the early stages. During this process, people need to admit their problem and ask directly for help. Denial is a common symptom of drug abuse and addiction, with a direct intervention often needed before someone becomes aware of their problem. During initial assessment, therapists and counselors will attempt to identify the extent of substance abuse, along with any broader life issues that may be relevant. For example, practitioners need to identify potential high-risk situations, mental health conditions, and the existence of dual diagnosis conditions such as eating disorders and behavioral addictions. When a baseline measurement for further treatment is obtained, detox and rehab plans can be formulated according to the substance and extent of addiction.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse

If you’re worried about problematic drug or alcohol use by a friend or family member, it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs associated with substance use disorders. People often go to extreme lengths to hide their drug use, so it’s critical to watch out for problems and address your loved ones with any concerns you might have. While some of these signs are dependent on the substance in question, there are lots of general warning signs to look out for.

  • being unable to stop drug use
  • developing tolerance to drugs
  • using drugs in risky situations
  • spending money you don’t have on drugs
  • using drugs even when they’re causing problems
  • needing drugs to relax or feel normal
  • not keeping up your responsibilities because of drug use

Drug Treatment Intake

Before being admitted into a drug treatment clinic, it’s important to be aware of the intake process. While pre-intake and intake procedures differ according to the facility in question, there are some general guidelines used by detox and rehab clinics across the United States. Patients are typically prioritized according to their response requirements, with early admittance sometimes available if acute medical conditions need to be attended to. Other factors that will influence intake include the age of the patient, their mental health, the frequency of drug use, the history and extent of drug use, the existence of children, the existence of criminal charges and other life complexities. Before treatment can begin, practitioners need to ascertain the primary drug of abuse and whether or not it is likely to cause physical-somatic withdrawal symptoms. People in Chicago abuse a wide range of psychoactive substances, some of which cause psychological dependence alone and others which are known to cause severe and potentially life-threatening physical withdrawal symptoms. 

Physical vs Psychological Dependence

The difference between physical and psychological dependence has a direct impact on drug treatment options. Physical dependence is noted by a distinct physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome, with medications typically administered to reduce the severity of symptoms and avoid medical complications. Drugs known to cause physical dependence include alcohol, heroin, prescription opioids, and prescription sedatives among others. Most of these drugs are classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, with physical dependence also associated with psychological symptoms in most cases. Drugs known to cause psychological dependence alone include marijuana, LSD, MDMA, methamphetamine, and cocaine among others. The existence and extent of physical symptoms has a huge effect on the treatment options provided, with some drug problems needing extensive medication and others needing psychotherapy alone. 


Detox is often the first stage of drug addiction treatment, followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab and dedicated aftercare support services. While detox can be administered to support drug discontinuation alone, it normally involves the use of medications to help stabilize patients and treat potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. According to the guidelines provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, detox involves a three stage process and should always be followed up by rehabilitation and psychotherapeutic support. It’s important to note that detox does nothing to address the underlying issues of drug abuse and addiction, including social factors, psychological addiction, environmental problems, family problems, and complex emotional factors. Instead, detox is a specific intervention designed to manage the process and experience of withdrawal symptoms and enable drug discontinuation prior to rehab.

Drug Detox Steps

  1. Evaluation

During evaluation, patients will go through a number of physical and mental tests before they receive medication. Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can be dangerous when performed incorrectly, with extensive testing needed to reduce the chance of complications. Blood tests are typically carried out to screen for the existence of psychoactive substances in the bloodstream, many of which can cause negative interactions when combined with withdrawal medications. Clinicians will also carry out a detailed psychological evaluation prior to treatment, including tests for dual diagnosis, mental health conditions, and other co-occurring disorders.

  1. Stabilization

In many ways, stabilization is the end goal of detox, with patients only able to receive additional treatment when they are free from drugs and ready to embrace rehab. Medications are normally used to enable physical and mental stability, especially for substances known to cause a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome. For example, alcoholics and opioid addicts may be given benzodiazepine drugs to help them manage symptoms. The withdrawal process can be dangerous and potentially deadly when medications are not used, with rapid detox and other “cold turkey” methods not advised in most cases. While it is possible to stabilize patients without the use of medication, this is unlikely if physical symptoms are present.

  1. Guiding Patients into Rehab

While detox is an important first step in many situations, it does nothing to address the precedents of drug abuse and addiction. Rehabilitation programs are designed to promote long-term abstinence and enable sustainable lifestyle changes. Most rehab programs are based on cognitive and behavioral therapy, with motivational programs also used. During this stage of detox, clinicians may bring in the parents and friends of drug addicts in order to show support and encouragement. Before being admitted into rehab, patients will need to decide between residential and outpatient programs and commit to a treatment plan.  

Drug Rehabilitation

Drug rehabilitation is the backbone of successful drug addiction treatment. While detox is often needed to help manage withdrawal symptoms, rehab is necessary to enable long-term behavioral changes. Drug rehab clinics can be found in and around Chicago, with some facilities specializing in particular treatment paradigms or specific substance use disorders. Rehab helps people to confront their substance abuse problems and develop new ways of living without relying on drugs or alcohol. Common treatment paradigms used during rehab include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational incentives, motivational interviewing, family therapy, long-term pharmacotherapy, mindfulness, and relapse prevention techniques. Depending on the substance and extent of addiction, these treatment methods may be combined.

  1. Pharmacotherapy

Also known as medication therapy, this type of treatment is often needed to treat long-term alcoholism and opioid dependence. While the use of medications during treatment is often limited to detox, long-term application is sometimes recommended as a method of harm reduction and addiction management. For example, heroin addicts and prescription opioid addicts are often prescribed methadone or buprenorphine in order to treat their addiction. While this form of treatment does not address the psychological precedents of addiction, it is a powerful form of harm reduction and lifestyle management. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), regular doses of methadone or buprenorphine can help recovering addicts to keep their jobs, avoid crime related to drugs, and reduce exposure to high-risk sexual behavior and drug injection. Medications may also be used to treat alcoholics, with drugs like disulfiram and topiramate prescribed along with ongoing psychotherapy treatment.

  1. Psychotherapy

The majority of addiction treatment programs applied during rehab are based on psychotherapy methods, including cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and motivational support programs. These programs are designed to help addicts make positive changes from the inside-out: becoming mindful of their issues, recognizing potential triggers, and learning to cope with difficult emotional situations without resorting to drug or alcohol use. Relapse prevention is a major goal of these programs, with patients needing to make new associations in order to avoid impulsive and compulsive behavior patterns. Rehabilitation can be based on cognitive, behavioral or motivational methods, with individual programs including art therapy, music therapy, moral reconation, family therapy, animal therapy, contingency management, psychoanalysis, mindfulness, faith-based therapy and many more. 

Rehabilitation Treatment Structures

Rehabilitation is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis, with patients choosing services depending on their needs and finances. Intensive residential treatment (RTC), also known as inpatient treatment, provides the most comprehensive level of service. A typical residential program lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, with patients living at the rehab facility for the duration of treatment. This is ideal for people who need 24-hour access to medications and medical support services, including recovering alcoholics and opioid addicts. Partial hospitalization (PHP) is a different level of care that involves a five-day schedule, with patients going home on the weekends and staying at the treatment center during the week. PHP involves intensive treatment for a few hours each day, with medical support services also available to people in need. Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) allows patients to live at their own home for the duration of treatment, with people normally attending rehab sessions during the day before going home in the evening.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse is also known as recidivism, a term that is used to describe a return to problematic drug use after a prolonged period of sobriety. Preventing relapse is one of the most important goals of rehabilitation, with up to 50 percent of all rehab patients returning to drug or alcohol use at some stage according to official figures. Relapse prevention techniques and programs are an integral part of the rehabilitation process, both during formal treatment programs and aftercare. In order to prevent relapse, clinicians need to teach patients how to recognize potential triggers and avoid negative behavior patterns when times get tough. There are many ways to do this, including mindfulness programs, trigger recognition strategies, and motivational incentives to reinforce positive behavior. Relapse normally takes place in a series of three stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. Unless patients become aware of the warning signs as they’re taking place, a physical relapse event is highly likely.  

Opiate Replacement Therapy

Many of the drug problems faced by Chicago are related to heroin addiction and prescription opioid abuse. Opioids are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that are taken to induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation, with these drugs highly addictive and capable of causing severe physical and psychological harm. Treatment for heroin and other opiate problems needs to be addressed in a series of phases, starting with medical detoxification and going on to include rehabilitation and continuing care services. Opiates pose a number of challenges for treatment providers, with the highly addictive nature of these drugs often leading to relapse.

Opiate replacement therapy is a form of pharmacotherapy designed as a method of harm reduction and lifestyle management. During a typical replacement therapy cycle, patients will be given methadone or buprenorphine in order to replace heroin and other problematic opioid drugs. While this does nothing to address the underlying reasons for drug addiction, it can help patients to live safely while they receive additional treatment. When this form of treatment is successful, practitioners are able to reduce the dosage level of replacement drugs over time as the person recovers and makes the transition back into society.     

Aftercare and Sober Living

While detox is used to stabilize patients during withdrawal and rehab is used to address the precedents of drug addiction, additional measures are also needed to ensure long-term recovery. Aftercare programs, also known as continuing care, provide long-term or indefinite support to people as they integrate back into mainstream society. Many of these programs are based on traditional 12-step support groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Others are based on group counseling and family therapy, with some patients attending therapy sessions for months or even years after they leave formal treatment.

Sober living houses or environments are a dedicated method of aftercare that helps people with accommodation while they make the transition back to everyday life. Most sober living homes have a strict set of guidelines and operating principles, with people expected to stay sober, respect other house guests, and attend periodic treatment sessions in order to access affordable accommodation services. If you or anyone you know is dealing with drug abuse or dependence in Chicago, it’s important to reach out to a professional treatment center as soon as you can.