Heroin User Population Growing Faster Than Meth, Cocaine and Cannabis

By Victoria Kim 07/01/15

The Drug Enforcement Administration released a disturbing new drug threat assessment last week.

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Heroin use is rising across the U.S., attracting people from across the spectrum of race, money, and age, according to the National Heroin Threat Assessment released last Friday by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Fewer people use heroin than meth, marijuana, prescription pain relievers, or cocaine, the report said. However, the heroin user population is increasing at a much faster rate than any other drug of abuse. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of heroin users nearly doubled, from 161,000 in 2007 to 289,000 in 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Inevitably, this has coincided with the rise of heroin-related deaths. The number of people who died from heroin-related overdoses more than tripled between 2007 and 2013; the death rate rose from 2,402 in 2007 to 8,620 deaths in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend has been especially prevalent in the Northeast as well as areas of the Midwest, where availability levels are highest.

The DEA attributes heroin’s rising popularity to an increase in controlled prescription drug abuse over the past decade. “Controlled prescription drug abusers who begin using heroin do so chiefly because of price differences, but also because of availability, and the reformulation of OxyContin, a commonly abused prescription opioid,” said the DEA, referring to the 2010 reformulation of OxyContin, which made it difficult to inhale or inject and drove some to switch to heroin.

A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found four out of five new heroin users had previously abused prescription opioids, the Providence Journal reports.

The DEA report also mentions naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The overdose antidote has been introduced to a growing number of law enforcement agencies in recent years, but substantial price increases “will have a significant impact on state and law enforcement budgets” and have resulted in shortages of the drug, impacting first responders’ ability to assist overdose victims.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr