Dr. Oz Visits Philly’s 'Camp Heroin'

By Kelly Burch 04/12/17
The heroin encampment is home to 150 drug users and even has a "doctor's office" where users can get help shooting up.
Dr. Oz touring Camp Heroin
Photo via YouTube

Dr. Mehmet Oz visited the front lines of the heroin epidemic earlier this week in an area of Philadelphia that is so riddled with drug use that it's known as Camp Heroin

“I just walked into hell,” Oz said according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Oz was accompanied by law enforcement, his camera crew and local media. He conducted interviews for an episode that will air at a later date. 

The railroad track encampment is home to about 150 drug users and the area is littered with needles. Oz pointed out the grim realities for the heroin addicts. One area was known as the "doctor’s office," where heroin users can get help shooting up. A sign in English and Spanish declared that payment must be given before the drug is administered. Needles loaded with heroin were left on the table. 

In another area, Oz saw a mirror and asked what it was for. Gary Tuggle, special agent in charge of DEA operations in Philadelphia, told him it's there to help heroin users find a neck vein to inject into. 

Tuggle said the quality of heroin in the area drew in addicts from all over the east coast. “Purity and price,” Tuggle said. “It’s a matter of economics, that’s what drives them in. It’s pure and cheap.”

During his visit, Oz spoke with Steve Johnson, 49, who came to the area to purchase a $10 bag of heroin. Johnson described a camaraderie in the village, where heroin users carry the overdose antidote naloxone in order to help each other. 

“At other places, if you nod off [become unconscious] people will steal needles right out of your arm,” Johnson said. “I can cop and get high right here. It’s governed down here.”

At the same time, Johnson showed Oz the blade that he uses to protect himself. “You’re going to have to kill me before you steal my dope,” he said. 

Philadelphia has been negotiating with the railroad company to clean up the area and move the camp. 

“If both sides are going to spend millions of dollars to clean this up, we have to make sure this is secure, or we’re going to be doing this all over again in a few months,” said city Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis. “They have to take responsibility.”

However, Tuggle said there is no simple solution. “That would only push it someplace else,” he said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.