The National Heroin Threat Assessment, released this week by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), shows heroin use and availability on the rise and causing more overdose deaths than at any time in the last decade.
Although fewer people use heroin than other illicit drugs, the heroin user population is growing at a faster rate than any other drug of abuse, almost doubling between 2007 and 2013 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths involving heroin more than tripled between 2007 and 2013.
“DEA is targeting the cartels that produce and smuggle heroin into the U.S. and organized criminals that distribute this poison,” said DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, in a news release. “We will continue to combat heroin trafficking to protect Americans from this severe and growing threat.”
The assessment is based, in part, on survey responses from more than 1,100 law enforcement agencies, which were asked to identify the greatest drug threats in their areas.
According to the news release, the reasons a person may shift from one opiate to another vary, but today’s heroin is higher in purity, less expensive, and often easier to obtain than illegal CPDs. Higher purity allows heroin to be smoked or snorted, thereby avoiding the stigmas associated with injection. Heroin users today tend to be younger, more affluent, and more ethnically and geographically diverse than before.