The Philadelphia Department of Public Health recorded 1,413 unintentional overdose deaths in 2022, representing an 11% increase from the previous high of 1,276 in 2021.
The health department also detailed that the number of African American and Hispanic individuals dying from drug overdoses continues to rise. From 2018 to 2022, it increased by 87% and 43%, respectively.
According to a press release, the data revealed that over 80% of overdose deaths recorded in 2022 were opioid-related, primarily involving fentanyl. Stimulants like cocaine were detected in over 70% of cases.
Mayor Jim Kenney emphasized that the 2022 overdose report underscores the urgent need for greater awareness and more tools to combat the growing overdose epidemic in Philadelphia and across the United States. He stated, “This is an overdose epidemic driven by increasingly contaminated drug supply. The health department, the Opioid Response Unit, and several other city agencies and partners are working diligently to address the challenges of this evolving crisis, and we urge all residents to understand the widespread risks and learn about the life-saving resources that are available”.
Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole added that each of these 1,400+ deaths is a tragedy and lamented that this crisis is spreading throughout the city and moving into Black and Hispanic neighborhoods like never before. She stated “For those who mistakenly thought this was a problem confined to Kensington, these data show that is not the case. And the risk is not limited to those who are opioid-dependent; people using stimulants and those who only occasionally use drugs are also dying from overdoses. We are committed to working with partners across the city to find new strategies to address this growing threat”.
Overdose Deaths in Philadelphia
Between 2018 and 2022, overdose deaths involving opioids and stimulants among Black individuals more than doubled, increasing by 146%, while deaths solely attributed to stimulants saw a much more modest increase of 64%.
This means, according to city experts, that fentanyl remains the most frequently implicated drug in deaths, as it was found in 96% of opioid-involved deaths. Similarly, cocaine was found in 88% of stimulant-related deaths, making it the second most common drug involved in fatalities.
The majority of overdose deaths in Philadelphia, 57%, involved both an opioid and fentanyl as well as a stimulant like cocaine. Xylazine, a veterinary anesthetic and analgesic, was found in 34% of all overdose deaths.
The health department is working with other city agencies and community partners to address the ongoing rise in overdose deaths.