Although many people have only just started to pay attention to the opioid epidemic, Roland Lamb from Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services said the city’s opioid problem dates back several decades. He said Philadelphia has had the most potent and least expensive heroin in the country for the past 30 years.
Even though Philadelphia is known for its pure heroin and the country saw a 248% increase in overdose deaths from 2010 to 2014, not all police officers in the city carry Narcan, the drug that could save most people who die of overdoses. Lamb said some police districts have been provided with Narcan and others are required to carry it by the city, but not all districts have Narcan policies, largely due to rising prices.
The price increases are largely due to the method of administration, Lamb said. The basic injection kit is less expensive than the aerosol kit, but many untrained emergency responders, like police officers, are weary of using injection kits.
Lamb noted that although the rate of overdoes deaths is rising, there are still differences among different demographics. Most people who die of overdoses are white men, but “women are catching up,” Lamb said.
Despite the increase in women dying of overdoses, there are few treatment centers for women, especially women with children. There are only six halfway houses with 150 beds total in Philadelphia. Similarly, there are only four residential rehabilitation centers.
Lamb aims to minimize the stigma that comes with addiction, increase resources and spread the usage of Narcan because “rich or poor, white or black, young or old — this disease will kill you.”