“Everybody is important here,” said Roland Lamb, the deputy commissioner for the department of behavioral health and intellectual disability services in Philadelphia. “Everyone deserves to be seen and treated like a human being when it comes to addiction.”
However, not nearly enough people are treated for addiction in Philadelphia, which is currently the largest hub on the east coast for heroin, Lamb said. There are only 8 halfway houses and 6 detox providers in the city. In addition to this, only some police districts are provided with Narcan, which is used to save people who have overdosed on opiates.
Although many people believe the majority of heroin users are African American, Lamb said that in 2015 men made up 72 percent of overdose deaths in Philadelphia, and 54 percent of those men were white.
“It does not matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white – this disease will kill you,” Lamb added.
Lamb said the city is also seeing more people with dual diagnoses. This means that they have a mental illness in addition to having a substance-use disorder. I would love to explore this connection further because it seems to be very prevalent. All the people I know in recovery for a substance use disorder also have a mental illness, and most of these people have said their mental illness caused them to develop an addiction.
To prevent the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia from growing any larger, Lamb believes the city should give young people more activities to occupy their time with, in order to keep them away from drugs. For this to happen, the city would need to provide more funding for public school art and sports programs, more opportunities for low-income earning individuals, and more summer camps or programs for young people.
Lamb does not believe legalizing marijuana will help with the opioid epidemic. While I disagree with Lamb on this, I understand where he is coming from. For those already addicted to opiates, marijuana may not be very helpful. Opiates are much stronger than marijuana, so for many people, treating an opiate addiction with marijuana would not be effective. In fact, it may even increase the craving for opiates. However, legalizing marijuana could prevent patients seeking pain relief from developing an addiction to opiates, because doctors would not have to prescribe painkillers in the first place. Instead, many patients could be treated through the use of THC pills or other methods involving marijuana.