Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug. Heroin use and overdose deaths are rising fast in the United States, particularly among whites and women, revealed the Vital Signs report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US health authorities reported that more than 8,200 people died from a heroin-involved overdose in 2013, nearly twice the number of deaths seen just two years earlier.
Heroin-related overdose deaths almost quadrupled over the decade studied. Heroin use has doubled among women since 2002, reaching 1.6 users per 1,000 women by 2013. It rose 50% among men in the same period, to a rate of 3.6 users per 1,000 nationwide in 2013.
CDC chief Tom Frieden said, "About 500,000 people are currently addicted to heroin in the United States. Heroin use is increasing rapidly across nearly all demographic groups, and with that increase, we are seeing a dramatic rise in deaths. Around one in 50 people who are addicted to heroin may die of it in each year of their addiction. That is a remarkably high proportion, and a reflection of how dangerous it is to have a heroin addiction, to have heroin supply from sources where purity may change rapidly, and to be using it by an intravenous route. Two key reasons for the mounting toll from heroin include an increasing number of people addicted to prescription painkillers, which contain the same active ingredients as heroin, and the low cost of readily-available the street drug."
Frieden further added, "Alarmingly, nearly all people who used heroin also used at least one other drug on the past year and most used at least three other drugs." The most commonly used companions for heroin were alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. 60% of heroin-related overdose deaths involved at least one other drug.
Frieden said, "In general, what we are finding is the higher the rate of prescription opioid use, the higher the rate of heroin use. Since the drugs work in much the same way, those who are addicted to prescription painkillers are primed for heroin addiction. Abuse or dependence on opioid painkillers was the strongest risk factor for heroin use or dependence. The low cost of heroin is also a draw for addicts. The drug costs five times less than prescription painkillers."