BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's been just over a week since fans everywhere were shocked by the sudden death of TV actor Corey Monteith. The 31 year old star of Glee was found dead in a hotel room. An autopsy would reveal he died from a combination of heroin and alcohol.
The actor had been public about his long time struggle with addiction, and had been to rehab several times. His death highlights a rising national problem.
"The Baton Rouge community has a significant amount of addiction and I believe our state has a particular amount just because of our lifestyle," said Alecia Kleinpeter of Cenikor Substance Abuse Faculty.
The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that heroin has increased over the years. Many experts speculate easy access and cheap prices are driving that increase. Other data suggests that pain killers lead many to start using heroin. That was the case for recovering addict Vic DiPietro.
DiPietro says he grew up in a good family in New Orleans. As a teenager, several injuries and surgeries led to an addiction to pain medications.
"Eventually the pills didn't work anymore. The next thing was heroin. It was kind of easy to find on the streets especially in New Orleans," said DiPietro.
The 33 year old says he was a hard core user for 17 years, shooting up every day.
"It became such an issue just to function. In the middle of the night waking up, the first thing on my mind before anything was that drug," said DiPietro.
DiPietro describes addiction as something that takes over your life and becomes your only love. He says eventually he turned his back on family and friends and drifted towards people who could enable his habit.
Several trips to rehab and even jail couldn't break his addiction.
That is a common story with recovering addicts. Experts say addiction is a disease that must be monitored each day.
"In addiction the thing that seems to consistently bring people back for relapse are people, places and things that they want to go back to, and not dealing with core issues," said Kleinpeter.
Dipietro finally found help at Cenikor, a long term treatment facility that focuses on behavior modification and the underlying causes of addiction.
He has been sober for a full year. He says what makes this time different is that he is getting clean for himself and not just to please his family.
However, even a year later he says each day is a challenge and he can never stop living in recovery.
"I am an addict and I will be for the rest of your life. If you forget that, it will sneak back on you. It's always there," he said.
"Recovery is a process; it's not a destination," said Kleinpeter. "It's a conscious choice every day."
For help with recovering from addiction, or for advice on how to help a friend, contact Cenikor at 888-236-4567 or click here.