News of the heroin epidemic and “opioid crisis” is everywhere today. Even the president is addressing the issue lately. What exactly is the heroin epidemic and what do we mean by “crisis?” Some of the statistics are very alarming. Drug abuse, overdose and death is rising among all citizens of the United States. This includes all socio-economic groups, all races, young and old, men and women. It seems that no one is immune to the addiction crisis that ravages America today.
Heroin Deaths Rise 39%
Between 2012 and 2013, the heroin-related death toll rose a starting 39%. Even more incomprehensible are the longer term statistics. According to the CDC, heroin overdose deaths increased nearly 400% between 220 and 2013. In 2016, the increase was somewhat less but still significant. Heroin-related overdose deaths increased 19.5% between 2015 and 2016.
Nine Out of Ten First-Time Heroin Users are White
In the 1970’s and before, there were equal numbers of white and non-white heroin users. In the 1980’s, however, heroin started spreading from urban areas to all parts of the country, particularly the suburbs.
Today, the overwhelming odds are that a first-time heroin user will be white. And of those, an alarming number of them are middle class or wealthy. Once more, women and people with private insurance are closing the gap among heroin users. Gone are the days when heroin use was limited to only working class males in urban areas.
75% of Heroin Addicts used Prescription Pain Medication before Trying Heroin
Recent studies reveal that heroin addiction most often begins with prescription pill addiction. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly half of the people addicted to heroin from 2011 to 2013 were also dependent upon prescription opioids.
Heavily prescribed opioids like Oxycontin and Hydrocodone are extremely addictive. When the supply of these drugs becomes scarce, it is natural for many addicts to switch to heroin. Heroin is even more easily acquired and is cheaper. Studies show that people addicted to prescription pain medicine are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
66% of the Drug Overdose Deaths in 2016 involved Heroin or Prescription Opioids
63,632 people died from drug overdose in America in 2016. There were increases in all areas of society, including women, youths under 15, those over 15, and all races and economic groups. The rate of death from synthetic opioids like fentanyl has more than doubled while heroin related deaths increased 19.5 percent.
Heroin and Opioid Deaths Increased Substantially in Several States
Ohio, West Virginia and Washington D.C. saw the highest rate of overdose deaths from heroin.
Synthetic prescription opioid overdose deaths doubled in New Hampshire, West Virginia and Massachusetts.
Given these statistics, we are indeed experiencing overdose deaths with “epidemic” proportions. With education, awareness and government programs we can fight the plight and lower these numbers. Proper treatment for those already addicted to heroin and opioids is necessary to help us all stay alive and healthy. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids, please call Ventura Recovery Center at (800) 247-6111 or contact SAMHSA for a treatment program near you.