Heroin addiction is a disease that has been described as "the silent killer". A stereotype exists which says that heroin users are only found in poor, crime-ridden inner-city neighborhoods. However, this stereotype is no longer a true reality. The Allegheny County Health Department recently reported that in the past ten years, the number of drug overdose deaths, including heroin, have tripled in the Pittsburgh region. Overdose deaths have taken 261 lives this year so far. The bulk of these statistics actually come from the suburbs of the city, not urban locations. The face of heroin use is changing, as the drug is now crossing class, culture, neighborhood, and age demographics.
Heroin is an extremely addictive and destructive drug that is becoming increasingly easier to obtain. It is defying all former stereotypes as a "gang drug" and is growing in scope and danger. Many strains available on the streets today, brought into the country from Central Asia, are significantly stronger and more dangerous than the heroin that was on the street in recent years.
Raising awareness about the spread of the disease of heroin addiction can only help families in our region. Dr. Neil A. Capretto, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center, reported that there have been more heroin overdoses this year than at any other point in Western Pennsylvania's history. So far there have been over 90 heroin-related deaths in Allegheny County this year. Of this count, 60% came from the Pittsburgh suburbs. Regardless of where these deaths are coming from, each is avoidable and efforts should be made to stand against heroin abuse, whether that is in the city or in the suburbs.
It is necessary to address the fact that heroin is a real danger to this community, especially for at-risk youth. It is our responsibility to raise awareness about the danger of heroin, as well to take practical safeguards and precautions to prevent any more overdose deaths from occurring. The face of heroin is changing, as should our action against it.
For the original news story from WTAE, click here.