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Cities Recovering From Years of Alcohol and Drug-Related Damages

For years, we’ve hoped to see the fruitful results of clean-up efforts within our nation’s drug-ravaged cities. We’ve been told they’re working, but now there’s proof to back up those claims. And believe it or not, that proof is coming from Google Street views.

One Step at a Time

Urban Rehabilitations shows shocking before-and-after images of what used to be dilapidated and drug-infested streets in Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans, Austin, the Bronx and Camden, N.J. Instead of abandoned and boarded-up buildings, these streets now boast occupied houses or newly constructed businesses. In many cases, the streets themselves were given a major face-lift.

The project aims to show that “while recovery from drug addiction is possible for the individual, so too is it for cities and neighborhoods.”

A New Orleans Resurgence

One of the most impressive examples of the clean-up efforts comes from a New Orleans-based program called “NOLA for Life.” After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, drug and crime rates skyrocketed in several low-income areas of the city. This prompted the group to begin collaborating with mentoring organizations and supporting providers who helped at-risk children and families.

Thanks to the group’s efforts, the murder rate in New Orleans dropped by 20 percent in 2013 alone. What’s’ more, prosecutors were able to bring charges against – and convict – a number of drug trafficking cases throughout the city.

These initiatives are so crucial because clear links have been identified between drug sales and new cases of drug use in neighborhoods.

Products of the Environment

A study released last October by New York University and published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, analyzed data from more than 10,000 high school students. The researchers found that those who witnessed neighborhood drug sales “almost every day” were 11 times more likely to have used an illicit drug in the last month than those who had reported never seeing neighborhood drug sales.

Dr. Joseph J. Palamar, co-author on the study and a CDUHR affiliated researcher, suggested that seeing drug sales so frequently “normalized” the activity. He also noted the study’s findings that neighborhood drug sales correlate with lower peer disapproval of marijuana and cocaine.  However, the increased crime and illegal activity that generally accompanies illicit drug use also creates a negative perception of the city – a reputation he hopes to avoid.

“We don’t want young people to approve of illicit drug use because they see drugs being sold in their neighborhoods,” says Palamar. “At the same time we don’t want such strong disapproval or stigma that their peers experiencing drugs problems cannot talk to them when they need help.”

Additional Reading: Talking to Your Kids about Drinking? 7 Valuable Conversation Tips