New Report Reveals Current and Long-Term Heroin Use Trends

A new report, “Tracking Heroin Use in the United States: 2002 to 2013,” released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that while incidence of heroin use is still relatively small compared to other illicit substances, it rose significantly during the past 11 years. The report shows that 681,000 Americans aged 12 and older used heroin in the past year.

Although this is consistent with levels since 2009, it is far higher than the 2002 to 2008 levels (ranging from 314,000 to 455,000). Data shows that 169,000 Americans age 12 and older used heroin for the first time in 2013. Among these initiates were 21,000 adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and 66,000 young adults (ages 18 to 25). Overall, on an average day about 460 Americans use heroin for the first time.  

The report shows that in the past year there has been a significant rise in the number of people who received treatment for a heroin problem—from 277,000 in 2002 to 526,000 in 2013. The report also shows an overall drop in individuals’ perception regarding ease of obtaining heroin. In 2013, 15.2 percent of people age 12 or older thought heroin would be fairly or very easy for them to obtain, a drop from 18.3 percent in 2002. The decline in perception of heroin availability was particularly pronounced among those aged 12 to 17—from 15.8 percent in 2002 to 9.1 percent in 2013.
    
“Heroin use has reached alarming levels throughout our nation and we must work together to overcome this serious public health threat,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a news release. “It takes collective effort from all parts of our communities to educate and prevent heroin use and addiction. Everyone needs to know how to identify people with a heroin problem, help them find treatment, and know how to help prevent overdose deaths. Together we can save lives and through treatment, offer people recovering from heroin problems happy, healthy, and productive futures.”  

The report is based on data collected from SAMHSA’s 2010 to 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports. The survey excludes subpopulations that may have high rates of heroin use. Details about use of a variety of substances, including heroin, can be found in the 2013 NSDUH report at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1943/ShortReport-1943.pdf.