Heroin use more than doubled among young adults in the past decade and more than 45% of those were also addicted to a prescription painkiller, according to the CDC.  Not only is there an increase in heroin addictions, the number of heroin-related overdose deaths has skyrocketed.  With these facts in mind, let’s look at today’s heroin abuse trends to get a better idea of just how widespread this problem has become.

Prescription Opioid Use a Risk Factor for Heroin Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse pooled ten years worth of data on heroin use and found that the incidence of heroin abuse is higher among people who reported non-medical use of prescription painkillers. They also found that more than 80% of people entering treatment for heroin addiction had begun using opioids initially, then switched to heroin.  This is due in part to the fact that both heroin and prescription painkillers belong to the opioid class of drugs. Also, both drugs produce euphoric effects by binding to opioid receptors in the brain.

Here is an outline of heroin trends from the 1960’s to today:

  • In the 60s, about 82% of heroin users were young men from minority groups who began using the drug at about the age of 16.
  • In 2013, the number of people using heroin reached 4,812,000.
  • In that same year, about 170,000 people over the age of 12 tried heroin for the first time.
  • In 2015, more than 2 million people had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers.  Of those, 591,000 had a heroin abuse problem.
  • In that same year, overdose deaths from opioid abuse reached 20,101 and heroin-related deaths reached 12,990.
  • ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) estimates that 23% of people who use heroin develop an opioid addiction.
  • In one state alone, about 95% of heroin users used prescription opioids before switching to heroin.
  • Nine in ten of people using heroin reported using at least one other drug.
  • In 2017, opioid overdoses in large cities increased by as much as 54% in sixteen states.
  • In 2018, more than 115 people die every day from an opioid overdose (including heroin) in the U.S.

These shocking statistics make it easy to see why we refer to it as an “opioid epidemic” today.  Heroin abuse and opioid painkiller abuse seem to go hand-in-hand regardless which was the initial drug of choice.

Other Surprising Heroin Abuse Trends

When the U.S. Government cracked down on prescription drug abuse, they might have contributed unintentionally to the heroin epidemic today.  Part of their approach to drug control was to encourage drug manufacturers to create a product that could not be easily crushed. They also devised a time-release mechanism in the products.  The result of these improvements was a higher price tag. People found they could no longer afford their medications and turned to cheaper alternatives such as heroin.

What is Being Done to Combat the Heroin Epidemic?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is doing their part to respond to the opioid crisis.  Their priorities include improving access to treatment, promoting overdose-reversing drugs, providing support for research on addiction, and promoting better methods for pain management.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the national leading medical research agency.  Their goal is to help solve the opioid crisis by finding better ways of preventing opioid abuse, treating addictions, and managing pain.  In 2017, they met with pharmaceutical companies to discuss:

  • Non-addictive, effective methods for managing chronic pain.
  • Discover new medications and technologies for treating opioid abuse.
  • Improved methods for overdose prevention and reversal interventions.

The National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit held in April 2018 resulted in the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative. Several agencies are joining forces in this initiative to find scientific solutions for the opioid crisis.

More information about heroin abuse trends can be found by contacting us at our toll-free number today.  Also, if you or a loved one needs treatment for heroin or other opioid abuse, we can help.

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