A new report released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that deaths from heroin have quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. Rates of abuse doubled among women and went up 50 percent among men during the same time period. Heroin overdose has taken many celebrity lives during this time – including Chris Farley and Philip Seymour Hoffman – their deaths highlight how complicated this addiction web really is.
“Heroin use in the United States increased 63 percent from 2002 through 2013. This increase occurred among a broad range of demographics, including men and women, most age groups, and all income levels,” the CDC says in its report, attributing much of the increase to users who started abusing prescription painkillers and then moved on to heroin.
“What’s most striking and troubling is that we’re seeing heroin diffusing throughout society to groups that it hasn’t touched before,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told NBC News.
Heroin use has dramatically risen across the U.S., spreading to groups it hadn’t previously reached.
“We’re seeing heroin affecting people in urban and rural areas, white, black and Hispanic, low middle and high income. We’re seeing heroin diffusing throughout society but we can turn this around.”
Heroin kills by causing slow and shallow breathing. Multiple drug use worsens the effect. “People often use heroin along with other drugs or alcohol. This practice is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of overdose,” CDC said.
The reasons for the deaths are multiple fold and complicated – drug abuse is on the rise overall, and more people are using prescription painkillers. However, Heroin is cheap and more easily available alternative to these prescription drugs for people addicted to substances.
“They are addicted to prescription opiates because they are essentially the same chemical with the same effect on the brain as heroin,” Frieden told a news conference. “Heroin costs roughly 5 times less than prescription opiates on the street.”
This isn’t the only reason for the rise. More ‘purer’ form of heroin is coming into the United States. This makes it easier to overdose. “Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013,” CDC said.
The absolute numbers are still low — fewer than 1 percent of people abuse heroin, CDC said.
The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC evaluated data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2002-2013. This report captures thousands of Americans, but misses the military, homeless and prison populations. So it may actually understate the extent of the heroin abuse problem.
“Annual average rates of past-year heroin use increased from 1.6 per 1,000 persons aged 12 years or older in 2002-2004 to 2.6 per 1,000 in 2011-2013,” the report reads.
“In 2013, an estimated 517,000 persons reported past-year heroin abuse or dependence, a nearly 150 percent increase since 2007,” CDC added.
“During 2002-2013, heroin overdose death rates nearly quadrupled in the United States, from 0.7 deaths to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 population, with a near doubling of the rates from 2011-2013.”