An opioid Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program is seen July 19 at a conference in Arlington, Mass. The application maps various types of opioid overdose responses entered by first responders and is being used by the police department there. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Over the past 18 years, the use of opioid drugs -- both legal and illicit -- has surged throughout the United States.
Thousands of overdoses, disorders and deaths have accompanied this increase, which public health and law enforcement officials have called an epidemic.
Philadelphia has been particularly hard hit, with the rate of opioid overdose deaths in 2015 -- 48 per 100,000 -- being three to four times higher than that in Chicago, which was 15 per 100,000, and in New York, 11 per 100,000.
In 2016 alone, Philadelphia saw 907 drug overdose deaths, with roughly 725 due to opioids, according to a report issued in May by Mayor James F. Kenney's task force on the epidemic.
Designed to alleviate pain, opioids are not new, nor is the public health crisis they present unprecedented. The poppy flower, from which opium, morphine and heroin are derived, has been known since ancient times for its painkilling effects.
In the United States, heroin was legally used until 1924 when it was outlawed because of its highly addictive effects. Researchers worked to develop alternate opioids, such as oxycodone (under the popular brand name OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone and fentanyl.