The Opioid Epidemic


Assortment of pills

Opioid use in Kensington, Philadelphia, has skyrocketed over the past few years. Since COVID, this drug epidemic in Philadelphia has made the city the third most dangerous city in the world. Easy access to the drug has caused the problem to get worse and has become one of this region’s worst public health challenges of our time.

Opioids such as heroin have a direct effect on the user’s brain, making them highly addictive. When misused or abused, the drug rewires pathways in the brain that provide pleasure, making it significantly harder for a user to experience pleasure from anything else. Heroin on its own is a real threat, but more recently synthetic opioids have become a huge problem in Kensington. Fentanyl and Xylazine can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and significantly cheaper to make. Because of this, the drugs are often cut into other substances by dealers to make them more addictive and cheaper to make. Synthetic opioids were found in over 90 percent of drug samples in Kensington, so many users are unintentionally taking these life-ending drugs.

Kensington is known as ground zero of the Philadelphia opioid epidemic. Kensington has had drug problems for years now with problems dating back to the 70s, but since 1994 drug usage has surged and continues to get worse. The problem has also gotten significantly worse after COVID-19. From 2019 to 2021 the overdose rate rose by 20 percent. With thousands of overdoses a year, it makes sense why Philadelphia has the highest overdose rate among the 10 most populous counties in America.

Because of the rise of the problem over the last few decades, this opioid crisis affects tens to hundreds of thousands of people. A new record of 1270 unintentional overdoses was broken in 2021, and the problem does not just affect those that are taking the drugs. As a result of the drug problems, Philadelphia’s crime has risen. Now, Philadelphia is the third most dangerous city in the world. Robin Reid, a local of the Greater Philadelphia Region, says, “Conditions there are worsening substantially. We always hear about crime on the news, but I think people forget that drugs ultimately play a role in that.” Though there are a lot of causes for this awful situation, a key factor that seems to add to the problem is the ease of access.

Over 80 corners in Kensington with dealers openly selling drugs, and people all over the country coming to purchase heroin and synthetic opioids put into scale just how easy it is to have access to opioids in Philadelphia. A perfect historical example of how ease of access to opium can destroy a country is the Opium Wars. Opium was being imported into China by the British for extremely cheap, making millions of Chinese citizens dependent on it. When relating the Opium Wars to the current opioid epidemic in Kensington, Angela Schoettle, a Pennridge High School history teacher mentioned that “Its easy access makes it harder to eradicate.” Like this past conflict, it’s evident that the abundance of the drug, and the scale it’s being distributed on is a significant part of the problem.