Opiate Overdose Deaths Tripled In Last Five Years, Says New DEA Report

By John Lavitt 07/01/16

The DEA's 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary revealed the top reasons for the unprecedented rates of overdose deaths in the US.

Opiate Overdose Deaths Tripled In Last Five Years, Says New DEA Report

At the very heart of the opioid epidemic, the use and abuse of heroin remains the largest threat. According to a new report from the Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin use in the U.S. tripled from 2007 to 2014, and heroin deaths have more than tripled in recent years. 

Deaths linked to heroin increased significantly from 2010 to 2014, shooting upwards from 3,036 to 10,574. The DEA's 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary (NHTA) shows how the opioid epidemic is far from over.

In a news release, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg expressed the extremity of the situation, “We tend to overuse words such as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘horrific,’ but the death and destruction connected to heroin and opioids is indeed unprecedented and horrific. The problem is enormous and growing, and all of our citizens need to wake up to these facts.”

Deaths due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased 79% from 2013 to 2014. Often disguised as prescription pills, fentanyl is causing more unexpected deaths. In the first quarter of 2016, the highly powerful drug, that can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, was responsible for the deaths of 19 people in Florida and California, said the news release. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases risk of overdose, especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains fentanyl. Fentanyl sold on the street can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which markedly amplifies its potency and potential dangers.”

Nearly half of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies believe that heroin remains the greatest drug threat that their communities are presently facing, according to the DEA. As the number of heroin abusers increase, other consequences surge as well like overdose deaths, treatment admissions, and seizures from traffickers. The increase in heroin use is particularly high in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest areas of the United States.

The root of the heroin problem lies with doctors overprescribing prescription painkillers to treat chronic pain issues. Patients quickly become dependent on opioid medications originally prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose. With heroin highly available, they move on to the illegal drug when they can no longer access the prescription opioids.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.