A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Drug-poisoning Deaths Involving Heroin: United States, 2000–2013,” suggests heroin overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2000, with the highest increase experienced in the Midwest.
Due to successful efforts at the local, state and federal level to reduce narcotic painkiller abuse, prescription drug addicts are turning to the cheaper, more accessible, and highly-addictiveheroin, the report states.
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that between 2000 and 2013, the age-adjusted rate for overdose deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled, rising from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 Americans in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013.
The CDC researchers found that most of the increase in heroin deaths occurred recently— between 2010 and 2013. During that time, the country experienced a 37 percent-per-year increase in heroin deaths, the study found.
Dr. Holly Hedegaard, an injury epidemiologist at the NCHS, and lead study researcher, told HealthDay, “This increase has been what we’ve been hearing stories about, and now we can actually document it. There have been these anecdotes about increased heroin deaths, but until the 2013 data came out it was difficult for us to see what’s been happening,” she said.
While heroin deaths have soared, the death rates related to prescription narcotics have declined slightly, from 5.4 per 100,000 in 2010 to 5.1 per 100,000 in 2013, the CDC stated.
The racial and ethnic background of people dying from heroin overdose also has shifted.
African-Americans aged 45 to 64 were the group most likely to die from a heroin overdose in 2000. Today, Caucasians age 18 to 44 have the highest death rate from heroin abuse, the CDC noted.
The study also found that men were nearly four times as likely as women to die from a heroin overdose and that users in the Mid-West increased exponentially.
Longtime CADCA Coalition Advisory Committee member and Executive Director of the Drug Free Marion County coalition in Indianapolis, Ind. said the CDC’s data is all-too familiar in his community.
“In my more than 16 years of experience as a coalition leader, I have not witnessed a drug epidemic as devastating and far-reaching as the heroin that has been ravaging our community for the last few years,” Miller said.
For the third year in a row, Indianapolis experienced a record number of heroin overdose deaths, he noted.
“We jumped from 110 in 2013 to 154 in 2014; this despite various local efforts, including police now administering Naloxone in one district where deaths were highest the previous year. A disturbing newer trend is that the toxicology reports show that 35 of those who died from heroin overdose also had fentanyl in their system. Fentanyl, and its derivative acetyl fentanyl, is an opioid analgesic 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl not only increases potential lethality when mixed with heroin, but also can be extremely dangerous to first responders when treating the victim,” Miller explained.
The only “silver lining,” if there is one, Miller said, is that thus far the devastating impact has not reached the youth in their community. Only two of the reported overdose deaths were younger than 20 years old.
Miller has used his coalition-building skills to assemble a roundtable of law enforcement, health/mental health, education, EMS, coalition and state leaders who have have been meeting regularly for more than a year to work on a solution.