Heroin-related overdose deaths triple in 5 years, new report


Approximately 25 percent of all drug-related overdose fatalities in the U.S. involved heroin in 2015, a threefold increase from 2010, according to a government report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The NCHS, which is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released the data at a time when the availability of heroin continues to rise and the prices continue to drop, according to reports.

“The relationship between prescription opioid and heroin misuse suggests that if we reduce the abuse of prescription opioids we will reduce the risk of heroin use,” said Courtney Lenard, a spokesperson for the CDC. “One of CDC’s efforts has been curbing inappropriate opioid prescribing so that there are fewer people addicted in the first place. Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing might prevent, rather than cause, downstream heroin use.”

The report revealed and updated trends reaching back to 1999, highlighting that the number of drug overdose deaths increased for men (from 8.2 in 1999 to 20.8 in 2015) and women (from 3.9 in 1999 to 11.8 in 2015).

According to Lenard, individuals most at risk for heroin addiction are those already addicted to prescription opioids, cocaine or alcohol. These people are at increased risk if they are non-Hispanic white males, between the ages of 18 and 25, and live in large metropolitan areas.

“There is evidence that heroin use follows opioid use,” she said. “Evidence suggests that widespread opioid exposure and increasing rates of opioid addiction, or opioid use disorder, have played a major role in the growth of heroin use.”

Roughly 3 out of 4 Americans misused prescription opioids before becoming new heroin users, and 7 out of 10 heroin users within the past year also misused prescription opioids.

The four most affected states by heroin overdose deaths in 2015 were Ohio (29.9 percent), Kentucky (29.9 percent), New Hampshire (34.3 percent) and West Virginia (41.5 percent).

And drug overdose death rates increased for all age groups, with the most significant increase occurring in… (continue reading)