Heroin use nationwide is increasing at an “alarming rate,” according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, nearly all heroin users also abuse multiple other substances.
What’s Fueling the Increase in Heroin Use
According to CDC research, the escalation in heroin use across the country is driven by two major factors: the increase in the prescription opioid epidemic and heroin that is both cheaper and more widely available.
The analysis from the CDC also found that the biggest increase in heroin use is now coming from demographic groups with historically lower rates of abuse, including women, and people with higher incomes and private insurance.
Those most at risk for heroin abuse and dependence include non-Hispanic whites, 18-to-25-year-olds, the uninsured, Medicaid recipients and people with an annual household income of less than $20,000.
Overdose Deaths Skyrocket
Hand-in-hand with the dramatic increase in heroin use is a spike in heroin-related overdose deaths. Between 2011 and 2013, overdose deaths nearly doubled, with 8,200 people dying in 2013 alone. From 2002 through 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled. Every day, an estimated 120 people die from an overdose that’s related to heroin use.
To reduce demand for heroin, Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the agency will continue to crack down on the criminal networks that supply it and educate the public about its dangers.
Heroin and Other Drugs
Another key finding in the CDC report is that nearly all (96%) of those who reported heroin use also say they used at least one other drug during the past 12 months. Even more concerning, 61% of self-reported heroin users said they had used at least three other drugs in the past year
The CDC report highlighted the fact that people who abuse or are dependent on prescription opioid drugs are 40 times more likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin. The CDC findings are strikingly similar to those reported in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014.
Cocaine users or abusers are 15 times more likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin. People who use or abuse marijuana are three times more likely and those using/abusing alcohol are twice as likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin.
Working on a Solution
“It is not enough to simply reverse overdoses,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the National Drug Control Policy, in a CDC press release. “We must also connect overdose victims and people struggling with prescription drug and heroin use disorders to treatment facilities and doctors that offer medication-assisted treatment.”
His agency is working with federal, state and local partners to reduce heroin-related overdoses and other consequences or heroin abuse such hepatitis C and HIV infections, and increase access to effective treatment.
If you or a loved one is abusing heroin or have developed a dependence on the drug, help is available so you can overcome this addiction. Treatment that’s based on your unique needs can put you on the path toward healing and assist you in getting back to a drug-free life.
By Suzanne Kane