New Reports Reveal Chicago Tops Nation in Arrestee Drug Use; Illinois Drug Treatment Spending Paltry

(Chicago, IL) — Chicago leads the nation in illicit drug use among arrestees, with 87 percent testing positive for drugs, according to a new report.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which made the data public on Thursday, reports heroin use in Chicago leapt 45 percent in one year, and Chicago is the number one city in heroin use among arrestees.

Positive heroin tests increased by 45 percent, from 20 percent of arrestees in 2007 to 29 percent—nearly a third of arrestees—in 2008.

Additionally, Chicago leads the nation in arrestees—40 percent—testing positive for more than one drug.

“Illinois’ drug problem is worsening and state government is failing to adequately fund criminal justice drug treatment,” said Melody Heaps, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.). “Governor Pat Quinn and legislative leaders must fully fund treatment to stop the spiraling cycle of drug use and crime.”

In addition to the new White House report, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has also released a new study that shows Illinois spends $4.8 billion annually on substance abuse and addiction. Of that, 96 percent is spent on the consequences of addiction, such as prisons and emergency care. However, it spends only a paltry $179 million, or 4 percent, on prevention and treatment.

“In the face of escalating crime-related drug use in Chicago, Governor Quinn’s proposed state budget cuts drug prevention and treatment by $13 million and leaves an additional $53 million budget hole, which will only worsen Illinois’ drug problem,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) is sponsoring legislation, HB 4557, to increase the state alcohol tax by a nickel-a-drink, raising $254 million annually, to provide a reliable revenue stream to state addiction health care services.

The Feigenholtz bill is one of many revenue raising proposals still on the table as lawmakers debate the final state budget.  The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 31.

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