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Opioid use and addiction have reached epidemic proportions in Philadelphia, making drug overdose involving opioids a leading cause of death. Both pharmaceutical and illicit opioids contribute to this crisis. Opioid sales in Philadelphia more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, and health care providers continue to prescribe opioid pain medication in greater quantities than medically appropriate. The peak age group for overdoses is 45-54, an older age group than previously seen. Over-prescribing of opioids contributes to the recruitment of adults into drug dependence. While use of opioid pain medications usually does not lead to opioid use disorder, four out of five heroin users nationwide transitioned from original use of prescription medications. Heroin is easy to obtain, potent and cheap compared to prescription pain medications. There are estimated to be at least 70,000 heroin users in Philadelphia.
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