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The Rapidly Increasing Opioid Crisis in Philadelphia

Cory Jennings- DuBois | News Editor

Oxycodone, a prescription drug used to help relieve severe amounts of pain. Heroin, a highly addictive street drug derived from morphine. Fentanyl, an “up and coming” drug that is one hundred times stronger than morphine, and is making its name known and feared more and more every day. These three opioids are the top drugs found in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as of current day, and have contributed to over 2,492 deaths in the area within the past two years.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has many great aspects to it, from it’s beautiful parks and history-filled streets to the excellent universities that take residence in the city. But there is one specific underlying issue that recently has been pushing the surface, desperately trying to be seen.

In 2020, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) did a research study to find out just how many of these Philadelphian deaths were drug related. According to data giving to the DEA from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, it was found that a total of 1,214 were overdoses due to opioids. The numbers only rise in the following year, as the city hit 1,278 opioid- related deaths. 86% of those deaths were caused by the drugs oxycodone, heroin, and the infamous fentanyl.

The drug problems seen in Philadelphia are not a secret kept well hidden, so one would presume that steps have been taken to aid addicts and help as many as possible into recovery. That is not the case. Philadelphia, and the United States of America in general, has a very limited amount of programs that help addicts into safe and effective rehabilitation centers. A majority of the rehabilitation centers that are offered around the United States are not easily accessible. Many are for the elites, with residences in places like Malibu and Los Angeles that offer prestigious activities such as horseback riding and spa facilities. These facilities are incredibly expensive, averaging upwards of $65,000 a month per patient. So, as one can see, these types of rehabilitation facilities are directed towards the top 1%, and completely ignore the remaining citizens who desperately need help.

Another reason why rehabilitations facilities are failing miserably within the U.S. is the methods of treatment. It is proven that 80% of patients who enter a holistic residential rehabilitation facility, otherwise known as a rehab facility that specializes in replacing opioids with drugs that will reduce addiction and eventually wane the user off them completely, successfully treat their addiction permanently. The issue is that only 36% of opioid treatment facilities offer this holistic approach. That statistic may seem asinine, since it is already proved that the holistic approach works, but as a Philadelphia-centered photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge said, “there is a widespread failure to see addicts as human beings”.

Stockbridge, a former surgeon general, switched from looking at this crisis medically, to putting on a different lens and seeing it as a citizen. He has taken on the job of photographing this problem over the past five years, and has had such impactful images that he has been noticed and interviewed by big magazine companies, such as the Time Magazine. He believes his photographs humanize these addicts, and will eventually kickstart Philadelphias motivation to help it’s citizens.

While this crisis is incredibly prominent in Philadelphia, it is still happening all around the United States. Other big cities such as New York and Boston face similar problems, and opioid addiction bleeds into smaller suburban and rural towns more and more each month. This is a fast moving epidemic, and the higher ups of the United States government need to recognize this and figure out a solution, and fast.

SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

American Addiction Center: (866) 922-1574


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