June 23, 2017
About 55,000 Philadelphians are believed to be abusing opioids.
Underneath that number lies stories of struggle, heartbreak and, in many cases, death.
VICE News took to the city's streets for a mini-documentary published Thursday. It's titled "The Opioid Effect: Inside Philadelphia’s Heroin Epidemic."
The media outlet interviewed a community of recovering addicts who shared their stories about how they started using painkillers and, in some cases, moved on to heroin.
VICE also interviewed DEA special agent Patrick Trainor, who notes that a majority of drug overdoses in the United States are caused by painkillers, heroin or another opioid and how 900 people died from overdoses in Philadelphia last year alone.
The documentary explored how those who receive painkiller prescriptions can easily become dependent on whichever drug they're given, and how some patients end up opting for the much cheaper street opioid: heroin.
One of the recovering addicts interviewed by VICE gave a chilling assessment of the impact of opiods in his community.
"I would have to go through the alphabet and start listing off names per letter at this point for how many dead people I know," said the man, who wasn't identified.
The documentary also looked at Kensington, long known as the city's drug epicenter and described by Trainor as the "the largest open-air heroin market on the East Coast."
Trainor also acknowledged in the documentary the importance of shifting the focus on the drug epidemic as a criminal justice issue and instead as a public health issue.
You can watch the documentary below: