Philadelphia is struggling with an opiate epidemic. It’s not just heroin, but also strong prescription painkillers that produce a similar high and can turn some patients, or their friends and relatives, into addicts. “This is a serious issue that crosses all age groups and demographics,” Roland Lamb, director of the city’s Office of Addiction Services, tells the Philadelphia Daily News.
Last year, opiates accounted for five of the 10 most frequently detected drugs in bodies handled by the city Medical Examiner’s Office. “We’re seeing most of our new initiates with illicit drug use beginning with prescriptions for opioids,” Lamb said. “No longer do you have this vision of someone who’s being approached in a dark alley if you want to do some drugs.” Lamb urged shifting resources from law enforcement to treatment-based strategies to combat substance abuse. Philadelphia has long been known as a destination for cheap, high-purity heroin. “I would like to figure out ways to keep people out of … the criminal-justice system altogether so we can begin to work with them and they can have a future for themselves, as opposed to getting arrested, having a record and then having to deal with getting in recovery,” Lamb said.