Pittsburgh's location as a drug-trafficking corridor warranted the city's inclusion into a federal initiative aiming to stymie the nation's opiate epidemic.

“360 Strategy” coordinates federal agents, local officers and community groups into a three-fold approach, said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge for the Philadelphia Division for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Genetics And Environment Big Influences For Drug Addicts

Nov 10, 2015
Charles Williams / flickr

According to our guest heroin addiction is a desperation issue. Some addicts are seeking an inexpensive way to treat their pain. So, what does it take for someone addicted to heroin and other opiates to get treatment? We’ll pose that question to our guest Sarah Younger, a drug and alcohol counselor.

gackmc / flickr

Heroin related deaths in the U.S. have tripled from 2010 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people 24 to 44 in Western Pennsylvania, mainly in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, showing that heroin use is no longer just an inner-city problem. Data from the University of Pittsburgh underscore the demographic shift: 65% percent of people dying from heroin overdoses in the Pittsburgh region are men (35% women), most are white, and their ages range from teens up to the early 70s. 

Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, says the problem originates not from street gangs and drug trafficking, but in suburban medicine cabinets.

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Kate is 25 and began drinking, smoking and experimenting with prescription drugs when she was a teenager in Washington County.

“I started doing pills in high school, 15, I think. Something just happened in high school and I just was, you know, curious and then it just turned into doing it too much."

Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource


  WESA’s content partner Public Source has been running a series of articles on the number of drug uses and overdoses in Pennsylvania.  The latest story explores the stigma professionals in the workplace face when confronting addiction.  Joining us to discuss the issue are Public Source reporter Jeffrey Benzing and Jason Snyder, executive director of the Consumer Health Coalition.

The Economic Costs of Addiction

Feb 11, 2015 / Flickr

How do you address the growing trend of addiction in the workplace? How does it impact employers and co-workers? We pose those questions to Rosa Davis, executive director of POWER, a Pittsburgh-based organization helping women in recovery.

According to Davis, when workers struggle with addiction it can have a large impact on the company's bottom line.

"In addition to the human cost, there's a huge economic cost," she says. 

Davis advises employers to be as non-judgmental and as objective as possible. 

Punchy Judy / Flickr

In 2014, heroin addiction and overdose deaths became an epidemic across the country, across the state of Pennsylvania and especially in Allegheny County.

Dr. Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center says the high rate of overdoses in southwest PA can be tied to use of prescription medicines, along with a blue collar and aging demographic.

"There was a need for pain medicines and doctor's started prescribing it and pharmaceutical companies started marketing to doctors heavily. And they were giving the message, 'This is safe, not addicting. Less than one percent of people who ever use Oxicodon ever have a problem.' That was the message from the companies. So there was a lot of prescription medicines, very heavy in our community. Then thousands of people in every town from Kittanning, to Downtown Pittsburgh, to Clarion, to Washington PA got hooked onto prescription medicines, and that led to the heroine problem."

Capretto explains that as an addiction to legal prescription opiates develops, heroin emerges as a cheaper alternative, once refills run out. But addiction is not simply about the relief of physical pain.

Capretto says he considers addiction to be a biological, psychological, social, and even spiritual disease. 

"Opioids are very good at stopping and blocking pain; physical pain, emotional pain, psychic pain... I've talked with thousands of people with addiction over the years and I never met one who started using any drug because they wanted to intentionally add more problems to their life on purpose. They're trying to solve some problem, block some pain." 

A Coordinated Effort to Cover the Complexities of Heroin Addiction

As news of the increasing number of heroin overdoses has made headlines throughout Pennsylvania, newsrooms are making a coordinated effort to cover the most important angles of this public health crisis.

Sharon Walsh, editor of the investigative journalism organization PublicSource, has been compiling the work of PA media outlets that have been reporting on the heroin problem.

Shattered Image: A Story of Struggle and Recovery

Sep 8, 2014
Brian Cuban

Bulimia is often thought of as a woman’s disorder. However, men can suffer from it as well. In his memoir Shattered Image, our guest Brian Cuban chronicles his battles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder as well as his addictions to alcohol, cocaine and steroids. He joins us in Studio A to discuss his struggles and recovery.

Shatterproof Aims to Find Better Treatment for Addiction

Jun 24, 2014
Zachary Tristan / Shatterproof

The loss of a child is difficult for any parent. Losing a child to drugs or alcohol addiction can sometimes leave a parent wondering if they could have done more to save their child. For Gary Mendell, the loss of his son inspired him to create an organization called Shatterproof.

The organization is committed to protecting children from drugs as well as overcoming the stigmas associated with addiction. Mendell described his son, Bryan, as “what every father could ask for and more.” When he tried marijuana for the first time a year before high school, he became addicted.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford

New York Times Best selling Author, Activist, and Actor Christopher Kennedy Lawford  chronicled his battle with near-fatal drug and alcohol addiction in the memoir Symptoms of Withdrawal. We'll talk with him about his latest book RECOVER TO LIVE: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction and his journey back to sobriety.