Philadelphia: Home of the “Cheapest Heroin on the East Coast” Ronald Lamb Reflects on the City’s Substance Abuse Epidemic

Ronald Lamb is the Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS). Lamb is full of knowledge about substance use and overdoses in Philadelphia. He has been working in the alcohol and substance use field for over 40 years and has held many respectable titles including: therapist, counselor, supervisor, coordinator of addictive services, program director, lecturer, consultant, trainer, and administrator. On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Lamb came to our solutions class. In his slideshow, he presented data covering past and current substance use statistics in Philadelphia.  

Lamb explained the growing popularity of heroin in Philadelphia. In fact, heroin is extremely potent and the least expensive in Philadelphia, compared to the rest of the country. Though, Lamb cautions everyone to remember to, “Chase people, not the drug.” In other words, the popularity of drugs is always  changing. He explains how cocaine used to be more prevalent and caused more deaths than heroin. Additionally, in today’s world, prescription drugs have become a major issue. Doctors prescribe copious amounts of pain medication to patients, ignoring the potential negative consequences.

Lamb boldly presented the quote, “Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing” (Voltaire). Lamb finds it alarming that more doctors are not required to complete educational programs on addiction. With better informed medical specialists, Lamb believes we stand a better shot of combating this epidemic.

Currently, the 19134 zip code is a major drug hub in Philadelphia. Lamb discussed how the majority of deaths that occurred in 2014 were in Frankford, Richmond, Holmesburg, and Nicetown. Additionally, Lamb said Gurney Street has become the focal point of overdoses. He hopes to clean up this area, but he understands the implications of this mission. Specifically, if you barge into an area, forcing the people to leave, where do they go? The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services partnered up with Prevention Point Philadelphia to try and find solutions to these complex questions.

About the author

Danielle Nick

Danielle Nick is a senior journalism student at Temple University. She believes traditional hard news is valuable, but incomplete. Solutions journalism, on the other hand, offers a new, exciting, and improved way to tell a story. Contact Danielle at danielle.nick@temple.edu.

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By Danielle Nick