ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. - A report recently released by the Drug Enforcement Administration revealed that Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the country for drug overdose deaths.
In Allegheny County alone, 307 people died last year, and of those, more than half involved heroin.
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A common theme repeated by the DEA and local groups in regard to combating the heroin epidemic is the need to get addicts help. But Channel 11’s Aaron Martin learned that the stigma around the drug is preventing some local addicts from getting the help they need.
One of those people is Josh, who has been sober for a month now. He’s battled heroin addiction and depression over the last six years.
Josh said he sought help, but relapsed after not getting it from the mental health community - specifically psychiatrists.
"It's always a bumpy road. I have people telling me they won't see me for six months to a year. People tell me they won't see me at all, he said.
It’s a reality Josh’s drug counselor, Shannon Gaiser, ran into last week. She called nine psychiatrists around Pittsburgh before someone agreed to see Josh due to his recent addiction and treatment with Suboxone.
"It shuts me down. I just give up. If they're not going to help me, who is? Why should I even put my foot in the water? It's definitely discouraging,” Josh said.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, it’s not the common practice, but doctors may turn away a patient feel they aren’t prepared to treat that person.
For Gaiser, a former addict who is now 12 years clean, the treatment solution is simple.
"I think more love and more acceptance will definitely keep them engaged more in treatment,” she said.
It’s a theory that Josh also believes.
After much effort, he’ll meet with a psychiatrist for the first time in January and hopes this chance at sobriety will be different.
"I can take care of at least something for once. Having that hope is more than important,” Josh said.
CLICK HERE for more on available resources for addicts seeking help in the Pittsburgh area.