Heroin Overdose Deaths Are On The Rise In The U.S.

Posted on: October 4th, 2014 by sobrietyresources

​(Photo : Getty Images/John Rensten )

A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a rise in heroin deaths across the United States. The rise in deaths from heroin overdose is accompanied by a drop in pain-killer overdoses, but the question researchers had to ask was, “Why?” The study reviewed 2010-2012 mortality data from 28 states to measure how many deaths per year were due to heroin, according to Reuters. Data showed fatal heroin overdose rates were on the rise, but researchers were unsure how that related to prescription pain killers.  CDC researchers found that the death rate from heroin overdoses doubled between 2010 and 2012. The jump was from 1 to 2.1 deaths per every 100,000 people.

Deaths from prescription opioids overdoses, however, declined from 6 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000.  Officials say that, although deaths from opioid overdose are declining, years of over-prescribing painkillers has led to a rise in heroin use.  “The rapid rise in heroin overdose deaths follows nearly two decades of increasing drug overdose deaths in the United States, primarily driven by (prescription painkiller) drug overdoses,” the study says. Seventy-five percent of heroin users who started using heroin after 2000 say they first abused prescription opioids. However, many heroin users also say they switched to heroin, because it is easy to get, cheaper and more potent than the prescription pills.

Prescription drugs can cost about $40 a bottle, according to The Daily Beast. A small bag of heroin can sell for $10.  The switch between painkillers to heroin poses a great public health concern, because it means an increase in intravenous drug use, which can spread disease.  “In contrast, among those who began use in the 1960s, more than 80 percent indicated that they initiated their abuse with heroin,” the study stated. CDC officials also found that there has been a 74 percent increase in heroin use between 2009 and 2012. At the same time, prescription painkiller overdoses have declined among males, people under 45, residents of Southern states and non-Hispanic whites.  States in the Northeast recorded a 211 percent increase in heroin use from 2010 to 2012. Southern state heroin overdose deaths jumped by 181 percent. States in the West and Midwest showed a rise of 62 and 91 percent respectively.

Prescription opioid overdose death rates rose everywhere in the U.S. except for the South.  The CDC suggests more drug screenings throughout the country as well as increased availability of naloxone (a drug used to halt an overdose) to help prevent these ever-increasing numbers.

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