Suburbia's Now the Opioid Front Line | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Suburbia's Now the Opioid Front Line

Southwest Pennsylvania's suburbs are taking a heavy hit, with residents often moving from pain pills to heroin.


The suburbs of West Pa. Photo via

By Jennifer Matesa


| Share

Rates of opioid abuse and overdoses are skyrocketing in southwest Pennsylvania, particularly in the suburbs, as people who become addicted to strong painkillers turn to cheaper heroin and mix it with benzos. The suburbanization of Pennsylvania's problem echoes what's been noted in other areas of the country like Chicago. “The trend is unbelievable with what we’ve seen here,” Holly Martin, a psychologist and COO of Greenbriar Treatment Center in Washington, Pa., told The Fix. “We have more heroin and opioid addicts in treatment than ever before. Ten years ago, about three percent were opioid admissions, and now it’s almost 50 percent.” Greenbriar draws patients from the entire southwestern part of the state, Martin said, and many opioid addicts are kids from wealthy suburbs who begin by pilfering leftover drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. It used to be Vicodin and Percocet, according to Neil Capretto, D.O., medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pa., based about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, “but now we have Opana. It just came out in the last two years, and it’s been skyrocketing on the streets in the last three to six months.” Per milligram, Opana (generic name oxymorphone) is about three times as strong as OxyContin, Capretto told The Fix. A common dose is 40mg, he said, equivalent to at least 100mg of OxyContin, but “I saw a guy yesterday who averages five or six of those a day.” Martin told us she knew of at least four recent deaths due to people mixing Opana with Xanax. And most kids don’t know better: “They think Opana is the same as Oxy,” said Martin. “The kids are taking the pills, then what happens is they run out, and they get sick, so they try to buy the drug from other people at school. When that runs out, they turn to heroin. You pay 80 bucks or more for one Oxy on the street, and what are you gonna pay for a bag of heroin? Nothing, compared to that. I tell parents, ‘Don’t have that stuff in the house. When you’re done with a script, get rid of it. And not every pain needs to be medicated immediately.’”

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
PMS: A Natural Threat to Sobriety

I remember slamming things around the kitchen one night and feeling like I’d lost my mind. I was angry about something so minor, I literally can’t remember what it was and I don’t know that I knew then either

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv