Heroin Overdose Deaths Have Quadrupled Since 2000

By Paul Gaita 03/04/15

An alarming increase in heroin-related deaths has been seen across the U.S.

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A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an alarming rise in deaths from heroin overdose in the United States, with the most significant increase occurring between 2010 and 2013.

The report, issued by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, reveals that death rates from heroin overdose have almost quadrupled since 2000, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people at the dawn of the new millennium to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013.

A majority of that increase in numbers took place between 2010 and 2013, with the rate of death rising from 6% in the previous decade to 37% in that three-year timespan. In 2013 alone, more than 40,000 people in the United States died from heroin overdose, making it the leading cause of injury-rated death in this country.

The CDC report also included the following demographic data: the age group and ethnic group with the highest death rate in 2000 were black males between the ages of 45 to 64, with two deaths per 100,000 each year. In 2013, white adults between the ages of 18 to 44 comprised the highest death rate, with 7 deaths per 100,000. Overdose deaths occurred to more men than women in 2013, with more than 6,500 men dying from heroin overdose that year, compared to 1,700 heroin-related deaths among women.

Nearly all regions of the United States experienced a rise in heroin-related deaths, though the Midwest had the highest increase of 11-fold between 2000 and 2013. Researchers were unclear as to specific reasons for these and other rate increases, adding that they would need to combine this information with other data to reach a conclusion.

But Sharon Kelley, chief executive officer of the Associations in Emergency Medical Education, stated that government restrictions on the availability of prescription drugs have driven many users to either turn to hospital emergency rooms for drugs or heroin. “The majority of people who get hooked on opioids are just normal people who start on pain medication,” said Kelley.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.