Inside the heart of America’s addiction epidemic: Stirring photos capture the Philadelphia suburb crippled by opioids, heroin and fentanyl

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
By Paul Martin

Jeffrey Stockbridge has spent years documenting Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia
The street is the city’s poor suburb which offers a glimpse of what the drug addiction epidemic has caused
More than half of residents of Kensington live below the poverty line, and half of those are in extreme poverty
Stockbridge says he came across the Kensington community and its residents by accident

By Mia De Graaf Health Editor
26 December 2017

Drugs killed more Americans last year than died in the Vietnam War.

Tens of thousands of people have become hooked on prescription painkillers after operations, childbirth, and injuries.

The highly-addictive and expensive pills have driven many to seek cheaper cut-price alternatives like heroin and fentanyl on the street.

Usually, that means delving into a world like Philadelphia’s Kensington Avenue, home to the usual suspects of a down-and-out neighborhood (sex workers, homeless veterans, drop-outs) who come from all over the country, according to the DEA.

Experts advising the federal government warn that any moves to drive down painkiller prescriptions will be futile if street-cut opioids are still as accessible as sugar, and the ones who succumb to them are left to flounder.

t means this photo series – a years-long project by Jeffrey Stockbridge documenting heroin addicts along Kensington Avenue – has been gradually gaining traction.

The collection of large-format portraits started on a blog, photographing people in various binds of addiction, homelessness and crime, with short annotations about their journey.

While most urban areas are starting to curb addiction, Philadelphia – America’s largest poorest city – is still seeing an unwavering increase.

More than half of the residents of Kensington live below the poverty line, and half of those are in extreme poverty.

And business is booming.

The street’s heroin market is largely run by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, people come from all over the country to partake in a kind of ‘heroin tourism’ market.

Because there is so much competition, dealers need to be selling ‘the purest’ heroin, at least 93 percent, agents explain.

For the residents, the fanfare over this market is late – this has been a reality for decades.

‘I’m glad people are finally paying attention. It’s too bad it had to wait, and in Philly it was the number one cause of death under 50,’ Stockbridge told Daily Mail Online.

He came across the community by accident, and readily admits that he avoided them at first, while photographing abandoned buildings for a college project.

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