- Chicago’s homeless often fall victim to the ravages of heroin addiction
- American photographer Chuck Jines is chronicling the lives of addicts in his hometown
- There are thought to be at least half a million heroin addicts in the United States
- This number is increasing because of the easy availability of cheap and pure heroin flooding in from Mexico
13:20, 4 April 2014
19:20, 7 April 2014
A bloodied drug addict falls into a stupor as he injects a bags-worth of potent Mexican heroin into his foot.
Disturbing as it may be, this is an all-too-familiar sight on Chicago’s West Side.
The addict, named Rico, is just one of hundreds of the city’s homeless population in the grip of the city’s heroin ‘epidemic’.
Heroin addicts Ozzy, left, and John prepare their morning hit in a car park in Chicago, Illinois. The city’s homeless often fall prey to heroin addiction
Left pic: Greg, left, with a syringe in his hand and his partner Stacey, right. Right pic: The ‘cooking’ tools of a junkie who has fallen into a stupor after getting their fix
And not all of them have grown up in inner city slums, as you might expect.
There has has been a rise in the number of ‘suburban addicts’ ending up on the streets too.
The problem has been blamed on Mexican cartels flooding the streets with, what local and national government officials say, is some of the highest purity heroin there has ever been.
This haunting project – titled Poison Brown – is the work of photographer Chuck Jines, 47, who has spent almost a year documenting the plight of Chicago’s addicts.
His images show the squalid conditions in which they live – in cardboard boxes, under bridges and car parks – and how they will do anything to get their next fix.
Mr Jines, who started shooting documentary projects in 2008, said he was shocked by the level of drug abuse he found.
Greg, left, injects heroin through his shirt and into the muscle of his armand Stacey, right. The average addict can get through $200 of heroin a day
Greg, left, and Stacey, right, have been together for eleven years and have three children, despite being long term heroin users
Benjamin, a drug addict, seen drawing cooked heroin into his syringe through a small piece of cotton. Many of Chicago’s addicts are living in squalor on the streets
Rico, a long-term drug addict, lies back after injecting heroin into his feet. Photographer Chuck Jines said he feels a personal connection to all of his subjects
‘It’s truly remarkable how the city revealed itself to me,’ he said.
‘Heroin is everywhere. It’s as if one day a mysterious veil was suddenly lifted and I was shown a world that dwells just beneath the surface.
‘The whole experience has made me more grateful for what I have and who I am.’
Heroin abuse is believed to be dropping in the UK but is rising in the US, where there are thought to be half a million addicts.
In Chicago’s West Side, where open-air drug markets operate, a bag of heroin can cost as little as $10 (Â£6) and a typical addict uses up to 20 bags a day.
Mr Jines’s photographic project began in June 2013 as a follow-up to another project about a group of homeless people he called the ‘Alley Boys’.
Rico is one of dozen of heroin addicts Chuck Jines has followed and built a friendship with as part of his photography project
Young men being searched by an officer under the suspicion of drug dealing in Chicago. Mr Jines thinks drugs should be decriminalised
After being released by the Chicago Police, this individual was seen displaying his earnings for the camera
Chicago’s west side is stricken by severe poverty, both a consequence of and reason for its spiralling drug problem
Through his connections he was able to start meeting and photographing heroin addicts and their world.
He said: ‘I’ve developed a reputation on the streets over the years for being an authentic person. I’m straight-up and I show people respect.
‘I started out by focusing on one addict named Kevin. From there I began to develop relationships with several other addicts.
‘It takes a lot of waiting. It can be hard to catch people “home”. Often addicts are in and out of jail, so the story is continually on delay.
‘The worst part of this was watching people destroy themselves, sleeping in s***, sticking dirty needles into their abscess-speckled bodies.’
He added: ‘Today I have addicts who approach me because they’ve heard of me and want to be part of the story.
A drug addict seen using an alternative cooking method where a dirty bottle-caps holds the heroin as it is boiled down into a liquid that can be injected
Ozzy, a heroin addict, prepares to for a hit in a bathroom block. Chicago’s drug addicts are coming from all walks of life, both inner-city slums and the outer suburbs
‘Generally the people in my photos are folks that I’ve come to actually like as people. If I don’t like someone, I don’t invest in the relationship.
‘Like in most social strata, there are both good and bad people in the heroin world. I see some who are truly haunted by their addictions and have a true desire to quit – but I also know addicts who maintain that they literally love their addiction to heroin.
‘A lot of them are dead. If the heroin doesn’t get them, hepatitis or the streets themselves will get them. You don’t see many old heroin addicts out here.’
Mr Jines, who has ‘not for a millisecond’ been tempted to try heroin, says his view on heroin use and the ‘War on Drugs’ has changed over the last year.
He now believes heroin needs to be decriminalised to stop it spreading across the country.
This comes in spite of the high-profile arrest in Mexico of Joaquin ‘Shorty’ Guzman, the alleged head of the Sinaloa Cartel, who last year was described as ‘Chicago’s Public Enemy Number One’.
Stacey, a drug addict, shows an infection developing in track marks on her elbow. Disease is rife and a constant danger for the homeless addicts
An addict preparing himself for injection. The conditions in which many of these people live are horrendous
‘I advocate for a three-pronged approach: prevention, harm reduction, and treatment,’ Chuck said.
‘In every culture and society there will always be a certain percentage of the population that become addicted to drugs such as heroin.
‘The situation becomes inflated through the War On Drugs which has created an atmosphere of crime, mass imprisonment and unnecessary death.
‘The drug cartels make money, the dealers make money, the government makes money and private enterprise makes money.
‘Legalising the use and sale of drugs deflates the whole situation by removing the money incentive.’
Mr Jines, who is married and lives on the outskirts of Chicago, is now documenting the gang culture that thrives in Chicago’s West Side and plans to publish a book of his work in the next year.
Heroin addicts can consume up to 20 bags of the drug every day and will do whatever they can in between to get the money to pay for it
After refilling his syringe with the second half of the bag, drug addict Benjamin injects it into his hand
Benjamin, a drug addict, seen injecting heroin into his arm, it’s one of a huge number of injections he will give himself each day
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Nowt the wiser,
Land of the permanently loony, United States,
2 days ago
The real victims here are the ones you don’t see- the children, the people shown here get up every day and make a choice, get high or get clean, their children don’t get a choice, so while you are feeling sorry for these addicts, take a minute to feel even sorrier for their kids,the lucky ones land with caring relatives, the not so lucky ones end up in the system, and the really unlucky ones are being abused and trafficked as we speak..I work with some of these children, they’re the real victims
Freddie Mercury Fan,
St. Louis, United States,
2 days ago
I’ll save my sympathy for little Thai girls forced into the sex slave trade, children born into poverty, and animals abused at the hands of evil people.
2 days ago
Your tax dollars at work.
2 days ago
As someone who HATES needles with a passion, I can’t get it through my brain why anyone would take this drug. I understand there are multiple factors that make people want to “escape” within a substance (i.e. People who were molested, dealing with death or divorce, or just a way to relieve stress). We all do it with the legal drugs such as alcohol and marijuana (depending where you live). However, I don’t NEED to smoke marijuana or have a glass of wine to feel better. I have both in my house as I speak, and I’m not itching for either one. It’s purely for pleasure and something I do casually. But when it comes to heroin, I have never met a soul who uses heroin casually. It’s a HELL of a drug and I guess what really confuses me is the people who have recently gotten addicted to it when they have seen what it does.
Los Angeles, United States,
2 days ago
I had a boyfriend of 3 years who died because of an overdose when he relapsed after he had been sober for a couple months (kinda like Cory Monteith to be honest). I know this sounds HORRIBLE, but sometimes Im relieved he died instead of ending up like this. Of course I hoped he would have stayed clean and lived with all my heart! That goes without saying. Im expecting red arrows but hoping for open minds about what I just said.
Jacksonville, United States,
2 days ago
Can NOT wait for Obama to get back to Chi-town and have a community clean up
2 days ago
Drug test every month before handing out welfare.
2 days ago
So, I’m guessin’ these folks don’t have jobs???
- Pablo Diablo, Dallas, 4/4/14 17:49
And I’m guess they’re buying their drugs with money taken from you and me.
2 days ago
Hand it out free in large vials and with clean needles.
london, United Kingdom,
2 days ago
You reckon so captain obvious?
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