In Philadelphia, fentanyl leaves deadly trail: Washington Post interns + Wes Lowery investigate


So I want to walk through a game plan what
we’re thinking what we’ve got. Nicole if you could walk
through a little bit of what you got yesterday. On Thursday, I got up there and spoke with Prevention Point. This has been a neighborhood that’s dealt
with the drug problem for the past 30 years. That when Oxycontin hit the
streets it forced a lot of the drug dealers to tinker with their, I don’t know if you want to call it like a recipe for a heroin, oxy being so pure. You know, fentanyl this drug that was a
relative non-player in the opioid epidemic just two or three
years ago is now in many places the leading driver of deaths. What is fentanyl? What is law enforcement doing
to try to deal with fentanyl, right? Are you talking
to Philly PD? Yes. But I’m going to probably ride
along with the DEA. Will they leave film that? I’m pretty sure. For the last few months my colleagues and
I have been reporting on the opiate epidemic specifically on
fentanyl, a manmade pain relief drug. That’s caused a huge
spike in overdose deaths across the country. Right now we’re
on the in track up to Philadelphia because I wanted
to examine the opioid crisis in major cities and counties
that surround them. So much of the media coverage and
conversation has as the opioid epidemic sounds like something that’s
happening in rural, white America. But cities like Philadelphia are
seeing hundreds of people dying – and it’s only getting worse. So the area where a lot of people are
using their drugs are here at what they call the
tracks it’s the little areas underneath the train tracks that
run through the neighborhoods here. In the tracks, there are
about 100 people who live, thousands of people who use
and then hundreds of thousands of discarded used needles. Some of the folks who come down here to use they collect the discarded needles and turn them back in for clean ones. Some of the folks we’ve interviewed actually they sell clean needles one for a dollar and they use that to subsidize their own addictions. So we are outside
Prevention Point, a neighborhood organization that’s been around for 25
years that focuses on the harm reduction, needle exchanges, medical care and helping folks who are using get into recovery. I have two doses of Narcan and unfortunately I had to keep multiples because I needed a couple of Wednesdays ago, I ended up coming across four
people overdosing at the same time. We informed the individual. We gave you Narcan, it’s going to be in your system for 30 to 90 minutes. Do not use any more within
the next two hours because what you used and caused the overdose is still in your system. And then when
the Narcan wears off and you put more you system, that’s going to end up killing you. Injections drug users
were getting infected with HIV and hepatitis at a rate of 50 percent. Since then to now HIV transmission among
the population is down to 5 percent. Hepatitis B is down 80 percent. We have probably saved the city –
I would easily say a 100 million dollars. You know, we can stop. But at the end of the day
the cost is going to fall on the taxpayers because they’re going to have to fork the bill to treat these people. If we don’t deal with this public health
crisis upfront the public system is going to be footing
the bill for it on the backend. Yeah. So you have in 2010, where they’re introducing fentanyl into the heroin and selling the mix. By 2015, they reversed it and
they were putting heroin into the fentanyl. Last year, they
were just selling straight off fentanyl. Right now what you
find on the street is mostly fentanyl. How do you start using? When you start using? I start using 1977. So you started 14, 15 shooting heroin. Yeah. You know
you were living in the track? Yeah, leaving a track. And what was that like? It was a bad experience,
you know. I say ‘God, get me out of here. I’m going to do my part, help people too’. Yeah, I always pray, always pray for this place, you know, Prevention Point because they gave me the hand. So we’re
here with Special Agent Pat Trainer of the DEA getting
ready to tour around Philadelphia going to some of the
the areas that have been hit hardest by opioids and specifically fentanyl. You’ll see a lot of the same people
that are down here up buying drugs in the area of Kensington. See right after we crossed that train trestle,
it’s going to change real quick. Traditionally, who’s lived up there? Well, traditionally these neighborhoods were
very working class Philadelphia neighborhoods. And unfortunately this neighborhood has really,
really struggled with the issues around the drug trade and associated
violence for several decades now and probably no area has
been harder hit in Pennsylvania than this neighborhood. Philadelphia county had 907
fatal overdose deaths in 2016, which is more than any other part of the state. It’s not going to be real hard for you to figure out who is doing what up here. You see on the left, this is
a pretty notorious block Waterloo’s street here. Some active areas,
where a lot of drug trafficking is obviously occurring and stuff. So a little more over there. Everyone here agrees
that fentanyl has upended the drug marketing in Kensington. The police, the users, the residents they all say they’ve never
seen anything like it before. Now soon enough the tracks
that run beneath this neighborhood are going to be cleaned out. Many of the residents around here and the users themselves say they’re not really confident
that cleaning up the tracks is going to fix anything. They think that those
users are just going to be displaced. They’re going to
start using on the sidewalks instead of under the trains. Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole certainly
hasn’t figured out how to stop the opioid crisis and how to save
the lives that are being lost. But they’re going to
try something. And right now that something is cleaning out
the tracks. People don’t realize this has been here for
years. There was over 100 people down there, you
displaced a hundred people easily. And you know they don’t have
anywhere to go. And now they’re regretting. Because they thought
they were cleaning out meant that people were going to
disappear – they’re people. Somebody said to a friend of
mine, we don’t call them homeless anymore. They are outside
neighbors. She goes okay then maybe you should treat
them like neighbors then.

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