Pittsburgh Heroin use at record breaking levels

May 17th, 2011

Generally perceived as an inner city drug, heroin has made its way to the Pitsburgh suburbs, breaking out of its former demographics, as well as breaking records.

In one example given in an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a substitute teacher for the Creative and Performing Arts high school, was charged in a bank heist and the theft of more than $22,500 worth of computers to support a heroin habit which had grown to the astronomical costs of $100 a day.

Unfortunately, this is not a stand alone occurrence, as heroin use is changing demographics, no longer the drug of poor, inner city kids, now rising as the drug of choice for the educated suburban middle class and their children.  In fact, heroin use has risen so much in the Pittsburgh area that treatment for the addiction has risen an estimated 600 percent since 1998. 

Says Dr. Neil Capretto of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center, “We’ve treated thousands of middle-class people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s — educated people with college degrees from Sewickley and Mt. Lebanon and Fox Chapel and from small towns like Sharon. Now heroin is everywhere.”

However, use is not exclusive to those in their 20’s and above, as more and more frequently teens are suffering from heroin use.  “I just saw an 18-year-old girl from a good middle-class family, a good school district, who has been using heroin for a year and half,” said Dr. Capretto. “Several have come in at 14 years old. Parents are fooled, communities are fooled because it’s not on their radar screen in good areas.”


OxyContin has a street value of up to $80 a pill, so users often switch to heroin which is much cheaper and can be purchased in greater quantities

Some claim the rise in heroin use is due to the rise in the prescription of highly addictive drugs such as OxyContin which functions similarly to heroin.  When the prescriptions run out, patients find themselves hooked and turn to the streets to curb their cravings, and the illness brought about by opioid withdrawal.

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