Chicago Opioid Crisis: By the Numbers

A total of 1,730 Chicagoans died of opioid-related overdoses in 2020, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.

For context, that is almost double the amount of the city’s homicides and fatal traffic accidents combined.

Chicago’s rise in opioid deaths coincides with a nationwide spike in drug overdoses. The CDC reported last year that 80,000 people died of from drug within a 12 month reporting period ending in May 2020.

Overdose related deaths were already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts have stated that the pandemic may has made the situation even more complex.

For example, the pandemic forced need social services to temporarily cease operation. Other experts have pointed toward the rise of stress due to pandemic safety measures and unemployment.

A 2018 study conducted by the Chicago Department of Public Health found that the majority of reported opioid misuse incidents did not involve medications obtained through prescriptions.

83% of deaths were linked to Fentanyl, a highly potent painkiller. A large portion of deaths involved the mixing of multiple substances and street drugs.

Drug overdose rates are high among low-income African American community areas such as Austin, which saw 1,010 opioid-related emergency medical service responses in 2018 alone. Overdose rates among African Americans in Chicago was also high.

Pop Culture journalist and comedy writer based in Chicago, Illinois. Bylines include The Hard Times/Hard Drive, The Chicago Machine and UIC Radio.