America is now entering its 4th and potentially most catastrophic wave of the drug epidemic, and Philadelphia is in the eye of the storm. In the 60s the GIs brought their addiction home from the heroin saturated Southeast Asian battlefields. In the 80’s and 90’s our inner cities were ravaged by crack cocaine, followed by an opioid epidemic that we still find ourselves deeply mired in to this day. However, as the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia perfectly shows, the 4th wave of synthetics –namely fentanyl–will be America’s most damaging.
In 2016, the Pennsylvania drug-related overdose death rate was 36.5 per 100,000 people, more than twice the national average at 16.3 per 100,000 people.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is merely an embodiment of American post-industrial cities taking the full tour of growth and decay. A tour that spans the entire United States, and retains some of the highest rates of opioid abuse and dependency.
Philadelphia is special however, as its street level heroin tests at 98% purity, the highest purity in North America. In order to find out why, we traveled to the most concentrated open air drug market in the US, North Philadelphia’s Kensington-Fairhill neighborhood, known by locals as; THE BADLANDS.
This project follows the transgression of money, drugs, and tragedy from the street level dealer, to the head of the DEA. The addict in the traphouse to the pill mill doctor in the strip mall. The overdosing suburban kid to the network of fentanyl importers.