Pittsburgh has several intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs that provide assistance to those struggling with substance use disorders.
People in the Pittsburgh area can choose from hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Allegheny County. Support groups are important tools to assist individuals in their recovery from substance use disorders.
In 2014, law officials recorded 1,864 substance-related violations, a 26 percent decrease since 2004, according to an October 2015 report by the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Roughly 75 percent of these violations were linked to possession, and the rest involved drug sales.
Allegheny County saw 613 overdose deaths in 2016, an increase from 424 fatal overdoses in 2015. A large portion of overdose victims can attribute their substance use disorder to prescription painkillers and heroin addiction, according to a July 2016 report by Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services and Health Department.
Overdose Deaths in Allegheny County
According to OverdoseFreePA, a community partnership dedicated to fight the opioid overdose crisis in Pennsylvania, fentanyl and heroin were the leading drugs involved in Allegheny County overdose deaths in 2016. That year, fentanyl was present in 63.1 percent of overdose deaths, while heroin was present in 51.2 percent of deaths.
“Fentanyl is like a whole new ballgame. People are dying the first time they try it,” said Director Karen Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department. She added that the majority of street-sold heroin was laced with fentanyl.
The 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Survey reported that 54.2 percent of Allegheny County students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 have consumed alcohol. Thirty percent of students admitted to using marijuana at least once, making it the second most frequently used substance among the top drugs used by youth, which include, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants. The rates of alcohol and marijuana use in Allegheny County were higher than the state average.
The survey also stated that 13.1 percent of Allegheny County students binge drank alcohol within two weeks of taking the survey, and 3.2 percent of students admitted to driving while drinking or shortly after drinking. These numbers also exceed the state average.
Other frequently used drugs among students in the county include narcotic prescription drugs, prescription stimulants and hallucinogens.
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The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County invest in resources to combat substance use in the area. In May 2016, the National Take-Back Initiative run by the Allegheny County Health Department brought in 6,473 pounds of unused prescription medicine.
A nonprofit organization focused on helping intravenous drug users, Prevention Point Pittsburgh works with the Allegheny County Health Department to provide:
In collaboration with the Allegheny County Jail, Prevention Point Pittsburgh offers an overdose prevention and response course to teach people how to use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. According to the organization’s website, the naloxone it has provided to the community has helped reverse 1,800 overdoses as of the end of December 2016.
The Alliance for Safe & Drug-Free Children seeks to end drug use among youngsters in the Pittsburgh area by raising awareness of the harmful consequences and connecting young substance users with treatment services. The organization’s main goals include reducing fatal overdoses among people younger than 25 years of age and increasing youth collaboration in community efforts to halt drug use.
The Reality Tour is a prevention program from the nonprofit CANDLE Inc. that aims to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs. In March 2017, the organization hosted an event in Glassport, Pennsylvania, that staged a drug arrest and the death of an overdose victim.
The goal of the Reality Tour is to push parents and children to talk about substance abuse and equip them with the tools needed to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The program is also designed for schools and communities. It seeks to educate the public as well as cater to people who are at risk of drug and alcohol abuse.
DEA 360 is a coalition of government and community organizations that combat drug trafficking and the abuse of prescription opioids and heroin. The program works with law officials to eliminate drug cartels in neighborhoods across the country. It also focuses on raising awareness about the opioid epidemic and promoting safe opioid-prescribing practices.
DEA 360 in Pittsburgh collaborates with numerous local organizations to increase prevention efforts and work on building a substance-free community.
Higher education institutions in Allegheny County understand the challenges and stress associated with college. Students sometimes give in to peer influence and try drugs and alcohol. Colleges in Pittsburgh strive to keep their campuses free of drug and alcohol use through prevention and counseling services.
First-year University of Pittsburgh students must take a two hour science-based substance use prevention program to learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The university also has a Personal Education, Assistance and Referral program that focuses on awareness, education and prevention to deter substance use in the school community. The program refers students to the appropriate addiction services if they are developing substance abuse problems.
The University of Pittsburgh also started OverdoseFreePA, a collaboration among local organizations and the community aiming to raise awareness about the increasing overdose epidemic. Together with its four partner organizations, OverdoseFreePA’s goal is to educate people about overdose prevention and to reduce the number of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.
In 2017, the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy collaborated with Pittsburgh Public Schools and CVS Health to introduce a drug prevention program to schools around the area. The program, called Pharmacists Teach, focuses on educating children about the consequences of abusing prescription drugs.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania offers counseling services to students struggling with drug and alcohol problems. If counselors determine that the student has a substance use disorder, they will refer the student to the appropriate drug and alcohol treatment programs.
The college’s counseling center also helps students with co-occurring disorders and provides support to students concerned about a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Collegiate Recovery Program aims to assist students in their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The CRC at Carnegie Mellon focuses on the students’ educational, professional and personal goals while providing them with tools to avoid a relapse.
The university has a six-hour Re Examine Alcohol Choices Today course that guides students into making safer decisions around drugs and alcohol. The course also doubles as a court-ordered alcohol education requirement.
In an effort to promote health and safety around substances of abuse, Carnegie Mellon University also offers two online courses that teach undergraduate and graduate students how to create a safe and drug-free campus.
A stable job may be a positive influence during a person’s recovery from a substance use disorder. Drug and alcohol use may cause a person to miss work and eventually lose their jobs. Similarly, addiction treatment may intersect with work hours, requiring people to quit their jobs. Vocational programs and job rehabilitation services in the Pittsburgh area can help you get back on track with your professional career.
Located in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation services works with people in recovery to place them in appropriate jobs. Its services include diagnostic tests, vocational evaluation, counseling, training, job placement assistance and support services.
Veterans and service members in the Pittsburgh area who are recovering from addiction can reach out to their local Veterans Affairs office to receive help with finding work. The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program provides services such as vocational counseling, rehabilitation planning, job training, job-seeking skills training, resume development and supportive services.
Men and women recovering from substance use disorders require a stable environment free of drugs and alcohol to help them maintain their sobriety. Constant exposure to substances of abuse may trigger a relapse. Sober living homes help people stay away from harmful environments.
Each year, Penn Free provides intensive case management services to roughly 20 homeless women who are recovering from substance use disorders and their children. Penn Free also assists women in relapse prevention and provides a rent subsidy for up to a year.
To be eligible for the program, women must have full-time jobs, meet with their case manager every week, attend support group meetings at least thrice a week, regularly meet with their therapists and maintain a substance-free lifestyle.
HEARTH has 20 furnished apartments to accommodate people struggling with substance use disorders and provide them with resources to become independent and self-sufficient. Ten to 30 percent of the families in the program are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse.
The program provides educational resources as well as weekly goal and growth meetings that refer people in recovery to counseling services, child care services and drug and alcohol abuse support, if needed.