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The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Kensington’s opioid nightmare: The lethal rise of the ‘Zombie Drug’ exposes the depths of America’s drug epidemic

Often+coined+Zombieland%2C+the+Kensington+neighborhood+in+Philadelphia+has+become+the+citys+prominent+example+of+Americas+drug+epidemic.
Armaan Bhagwat
Often coined “Zombieland”, the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia has become the city’s prominent example of America’s drug epidemic.

Zombies roam the streets of the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia where the opioid crisis has become unmanageable. Infamous for its open-air drug market, Kensington serves as an example that America’s drug epidemic is prominent.

Kensington has struggled with drug-related crises for years, and with the introduction of a new, lethal drug, the problem will only get worse. The town has become a hub for Xylazine, a horse tranquilizer that has attracted street names such as “zombie drug” and “tranq.” 

Xylazine is known to cause slower heart rates, sedation and, in many cases, death. Its usage has not been permitted for human use because of its fatal effects. However, the drug is often mixed into other common drugs, leading to users unknowingly injecting themselves with the tranquilizer. These effects bring users into torpor, similar to the trance-like state of a zombie.

With residents slumped on sidewalks or walking sluggishly in the street, Kensington is ground zero for drugs. The neighborhood is impoverished, making it difficult for addicted users to seek medical guidance. The portion of the population in Kensington composed of non-drug users have had to adapt to the lower living standard in the drug-ridden streets, avoiding dangers such as used needles on the ground.

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Deputy Jamey Fah understands the dangers of introducing new drugs into communities. “One of the things we have seen with some of the fentanyl coming into our market is an increase in overdose cases and deaths.  When we have opioid overdose cases we work to find all the people involved in the pipeline that got that drug to the user and bring charges that may apply.  For example, if we have a death from an overdose our drug unit officers will try to find the supplier of the drug and charge them with the death, such as manslaughter or possibly homicide,” Fah delineated. 

After Xylazine was introduced into Philadelphia, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert, due to its pernicious effects. The drug destroys layers of skin at the injection site, which potentially stops respiration because of blockage in the airway and withdrawal symptoms.

The United States has been in a drug epidemic for decades, and Kensington is evident of such. This overdose crisis has only increased in recent years, now mainly characterized by illicitly manufactured drugs such as cocaine, heroin and fentanyl. The number of drug-involved overdose deaths in 2021 increased by an estimated 51% since 2015, with synthetic opioids being the most common drug found in overdose cases.

Christopher Kohn teaches Principles of Biomedical sciences, including units of forensic science. He believes this increase is a result of numerous factors. “First one is the lowered security at the borders allowing the increase of drugs coming across into the country. Secondly I believe the decrease in punishment for those involved with the distribution in our country, as any decrease in consequence for the distribution of drugs allows for more participation,” Kohn explained. 

Overdose cases rising comes from a common factor: increased drug trafficking in recent years for multiple illicit drugs. Drug dealing is widespread across the country, making it difficult for narcotics agents to track down imports. With increased trafficking, illicit drugs are being used by Americans more than ever.

Increased distribution leads to harsher restrictions being enforced. These methods may prevent trafficking for a short period of time, but prove to be ineffective after some time.

Fah understands this dilemma on drug trafficking restrictions. “The truth is most of the people that get caught domestically for trafficking are middle to lower-middle level people in the drug operation and as soon as they are caught someone else replaces them. These groups are international and because of that the fix is much larger than local law enforcement,” Fah continued. “The other end of this is treating users and stopping people from starting to use drugs at all. Treatment and education for users or potential users would be money well spent to help reduce drug trafficking.”

Educating communities about the effects of drugs may work with solidified restrictions to increase prevention of drug trafficking and overdose. These methods can create numerous results if implemented into communities such as the Kensington neighborhood.While prevention methods have been set in the past, it is important to continue working on the elimination of drug overdose and trafficking in the U.S. With the drug epidemic seen prominently in low-income communities, educating and informing those that may be affected can prove to be effective.

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About the Contributor
Armaan Bhagwat, Photo Manager
Armaan Bhagwat is a senior at Pleasant Valley high school and is the Spartan Shield’s Photo Manager. He’s interested in biomedical sciences and anatomy, and he wants to major in biomedical engineering/sciences with an aspiration of becoming an ophthalmologist. At PV, Armaan is a captain of the varsity tennis team, leader of the Future Physicians of America club, and a member of the Wind Symphony band. Outside of school, Armaan finds enjoyment in playing tennis, golfing with friends, and playing piano. Armaan’s favorite movie is The Dark Knight, and his favorite musical artist is Drake. He is excited to work for the Spartan Shield this year!  
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    Addie KilcoinFeb 2, 2024 at 1:50 pm

    I think Christopher Kohn brings up a good point. If we increased our security at the border it could potentially lower the amount of drugs entering the United States. Drug usage is constantly being overlooked and in ways are even being glorified and normalized in society. This further leads to the point where punishments and drug cases are being neglected and not focused on enough. It is truly devastating what this world is turning into, to where people can barely walk on the streets in third world countries without having to be cautious of things that could be harmful to them including needles for drug injection.

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  • K

    KaleighFeb 2, 2024 at 10:26 am

    Why is this specific area having such a major drug issue? Could this drug infestation happen anywhere? How can it be prevented?

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