Definition of opioid
1: any of a group of endogenous neural polypeptides (as an endorphin or enkephalin) that bind especially to opiate receptors and mimic some of the pharmacological properties of opiates —called also opioid peptide
2: a synthetic drug possessing narcotic properties similar to opiates but not derived from opium; broadly

Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. (Source)

Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain. (Source)

Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. (Source)

Philadelphia Statistics

On Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, Philadelphia hospital emergency departments identified nearly 40 cases of drug overdose, which is far more than the range of 10-20 overdoses for the 10 days prior.

Overdose deaths increased 53% from 2013 through 2015, from approximately 460 to approximately 700. In that  time period, overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased 636%. The first four months of 2016 saw a continued growth in deaths from overdoses involving fentanyl, with the drug contributing to about 38% of all overdose deaths, compared to 20% during the same period in 2015. (August 2016)

Between 2013 and 2015, fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 50%, from 459 deaths to 702 deaths. In 2016, Philadelphia was projected to have had 840 drug overdose deaths, which was nearly three times the number of homicides in the city. 80 % of these overdose deaths involved opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl.

Overdoses involving fentanyl increased 636% from 2013 through 2015.

In 2015, Philadelphia had more than twice as many deaths from overdoses than from homicides.

From 2003 to 2015, trends varied by the type of drugs detected. Heroin-related deaths increased sharply beginning in 2011. Deaths involving fentanyl spiked in 2006 and increased again beginning in 2014. During the same time period, the use of fentanyl in combination with other drugs contributed to increases in deaths from other drugs. Benzodiazepines and cocaine were detected in combination with opioids in approximately 90% and 70% of deaths, respectively.

In 2015, Philadelphia Fire and EMS administered Narcan 3,026 times across the City of Philadelphia, with the most administrations occurring in the 19134 ZIP code.
(Source: Philadelphia Department of Public Health, CHART Vol. 1 No. 1, June 2016)

In 2015, the breakdown of primary drug of choice reported at treatment admission in Philadelphia was 29.9% alcohol, 26.6% heroin, 23.9% marijuana, and 14.9% cocaine.

Demographic Characteristics of Treatment Admissions in Philadelphia in 2015 by Primary Drug of Choice:

  • Alcohol (1,359): 80% male; 50% 26-44 years; 61% black, non-Hispanic
  • Heroin (1,206): 71% female; 66% 26-44 years; 62% white, non-Hispanic
  • Marijuana (1,086): 88% male; 53% 26-44 years and 40% under 26 years; 65% black, non-Hispanic
  • Cocaine (676): 74% male; 54% 26-44 years; 55% black, non-Hispanic
  • Rx Opioids (60): 82% male; 43% 26-44 years and 30% under 26 years; 47% white, non-Hispanic
    (Source: DBHIDS (including BHSI and OAS))

From Oct. 1, 2015 – Sept. 30, 2016, approximately 25,000 CBH members with a substance use disorder accessed services, and 13,693 of them were diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder. The majority received treatment for both their substance use disorder as well as a co-occurring mental health issue. DBHIDS has worked to further increase access and engagement in services by utilizing peer specialists and increasing staff presence in various community settings.(Source: CBH; OTF Document (December 2016))

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Heroin Signature Program (HSP) and Heroin Domestic Monitor Program (HDMP) found that the average purity of heroin in Philadelphia is 65.3%-67% and the average price per milligram pure is $0.43-$0.46. These findings suggest that Philadelphia has the purest, cheapest heroin market on the East Coast.
(Source: DEA, The Heroin Signature Program and Heroin Domestic Monitor Program, 2014 Reports, DEA-DCW-DIR-051-16, September 2016.)