Understanding the Epidemic 2
Heroin use is trending up
From 2002–2013, past month heroin use, past year heroin use, and heroin addiction have all increased among 18-25 year olds.6 The number of people who started to use heroin in the past year is also trending up. Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin.7 The increased availability, lower price, and increased purity of heroin in the US have been identified as possible contributors to rising rates of heroin use.8,9 According to data from the DEA, the amount of heroin seized each year at the southwest border of the United States was approximately 500 kg during 2000–2008. This amount quadrupled to 2,196 kg in 2013.10
Heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014, with 10,574 heroin deaths in 2014. The largest increase in overdose deaths from 2013 to 2014 was for those involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone), which rose from 3,105 deaths in 2013 to 5,544 deaths in 2014. One of these synthetic opioids, illegally-made fentanyl, drove the increase.1 It was often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge.