Heroin use in U.S. on the Rise

The White House recently released details of a plan aimed at cutting heroin use in certain areas of the country deemed to be facing a severe heroin threat. The “Heroin Response Strategy” comes in response to a recently released CDC report, which details a massive rise in heroin use as a result of an epidemic of prescription opioid use. The areas in question are Appalachia, New England, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.  The plan is unique as it will treat heroin use not as a crime, but as a public health and safety issue. Therefore, the focus will be on treating offenders and offering addiction relief services rather than jailing users. Compared to normal U.S drug policy, this is a radical idea. So just how bad is heroin use getting in America?

From 2002 to 2013, the rate of heroin overdose deaths have almost quadrupled, and heroin use has nearly doubled in the same time period. The numbers on the graph may seem small, but they are significant. 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people means that over 8,500 people overdose annually in the U.S. Two users per 1,000 means that there are over 600,000 heroin users in the United States.

All demographic groups saw a rise in heroin use, but the groups that saw the largest increase were two historically small groups: Women and non-hispanic whites. Use rates doubled among women and more than doubled among non-hispanic whites. Use rates continue to be highest among those who are male, ages 18–25, people with annual household incomes of less than $20,000, people in urban areas, and people without health insurance.

Many heroin users also have a history of drug abuse. The chart to the above shows other substances that heroin users have abused in the past year. In 2013, nearly 60% of the heroin overdose deaths were related to using at least one other drug. The CDC attributes the rise in heroin use to the increase in prescription opioid use. Past research shows that those who abuse opioid pain relievers are 19 times more likely to begin using heroin.

Further Reading:
Baltimore Health Officials Gives Drug Treatment Court Participants Opiate Overdose Antidote: http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2015/08/13/naloxone-training-now-a-mandatory-part-of.html

A Foster

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