July 9, 2015

New Research Reveals the Trends and Risk Factors Behind America’s Heroin Epidemic

Heroin use in the United States has grown at an “alarming rate,” resulting in double the overdose deaths between 2011 and 2013, according to a new report produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA and CDC analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and National Vital Statistics System reported during 2002–2013. Trends in heroin use among demographic and substance using groups were compared for 2002–2004, 2005–2007, 2008–2010, and 2011–2013.

Rates of heroin abuse or dependence were strongly positively correlated with rates of heroin-related overdose deaths over time. For the combined data years 2011–2013, the odds of past-year heroin abuse or dependence were highest among those with past-year cocaine or opioid pain reliever abuse or dependence, according to the report.

And it’s not just heroin use that’s increasing, it’s also overdose deaths. Between 2011 and 2013, heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled to more than 8,200 in 2013.

“Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a news release. “To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response — to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin.”

“We are working with federal, state and local partners to increase access to effective treatment, while reducing overdoses and other consequences of the opioid epidemic, including the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV,” said Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy, in the news release. “It is not enough to simply reverse overdoses. We must also connect overdose victims and people struggling with prescription drug and heroin use disorders to treatment facilities and doctors that offer medication-assisted treatment.”

CADCA supports The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which establishes a comprehensive, coordinated, balanced strategy through enhanced grant programs that would expand prevention and education efforts while also promoting treatment and recovery. The bill would empower communities facing a prescription drug crisis to effectively address these local issues with a new $5 million Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grant program for current and former Drug-Free Communities grantees. Read more about how to get engaged here.

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