Heroin overdoses have more than doubled in the United States over the past two years, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to The Daily Beast, the agency surveyed 28 states and found the heroin death rate skyrocketed from 1.0 to 2.1 per 100,000. Interestingly, opioid prescription pills comparable to heroin, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, declined from 6.0 per 100,000 to 5.6 per 100,000.
Even though prescription painkiller overdoses declined, the CDC claims the over-prescription of these types of pills has contributed to the surge of heroin deaths.
“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.”
According to Fox News, a sample of heroin users in treatment programs were questioned about their drug usage. Those who started using heroin after 2000 made up 75 percent of those in the study, and they said they first started out abusing prescription opioids. They turned to heroin because it delivered a stronger effect and was easier and cheaper to get.
The CDC saw a difference for users who started in earlier years.
“In contrast, among those who began use in the 1960s, more than 80 percent indicated that they initiated their abuse with heroin.”
Controlling the rate at which people are exposed to opioid prescriptions could possibly save lives. Once a person begins to abuse the prescription drugs and can no longer access them, they typically seek out another drug, usually heroin, to replace the prescription pills they no longer have.
Some people claim heroin is less a recreational drug and more for self-medication to avoid feelings of depression, anxiety, and pain. Whatever the reasons for heroin use, the heroin high differs between individuals. Once a user is hooked on heroin, the person often needs more of the drug because his or her body has built tolerance to heroin. The risk of overdose does not lessen as experience with the drug grows.
CDC director Tom Frieden said, “Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses.”
The CDC also suggests incorporating drug screenings where appropriate and increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug which can, in effect, overturn an overdose.
Using heroin is a public health concern, according to Fox News, because intravenous use of heroin can spread diseases. This is especially true and dangerous when needles are shared.
Frieden suggests, “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”