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Heroin Use in the United States Increased 150 Percent Between 2007 and 2013

Cheap sources and painkiller addiction are contributing factors

The number of users injecting heroin has skyrocketed across the United States in the last few years, CDC report says. (Eric Molina/Flickr CC BY 2.0)
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Heroin abuse has become a huge problem in the United States, Arielle Duhaime-Ross writes for The Verge. According to a recent study, more people than ever are using the illegal drug, and thus, more are dying from overdoses and catching needle-sharing infections like HIV and Hepatitis.  

Based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control report released July 7, the statistics on heroin use are pretty grim. Over the last decade, use of the drug has increased by 62.5 percent. And that increase is even more marked in recent years — between 2007 and 2013, the number of people using heroin increased 150 percent. From 2000 to 2013, deaths involving heroin poisoning have quadrupled and deaths tripled between 2010 and 2013 alone

What’s driving this plague of heroin use? The CDC points to “the increased availability and lower price of heroin in the United States.” From 2000 to 2013, the amount of heroin entering the country quadrupled, they note, and with that comes a drop in price and an increase in purity. "Heroin costs roughly five times less than prescription opiates on the street," CDC director Tom Frieden said in a press conference.

Another huge factor is painkiller addiction, writes Lisa Girion of the LA Times. People who abuse painkillers are 40 times more likely to use heroin as well, largely because the drugs are extremely similar. “More people [are] primed for heroin addiction because they're addicted to opiates, essentially the same chemical with the same impact on the brain as heroin,” Frieden said. The U.S. is also experiencing an increase in opiate abuse, writes Duhaime-Ross. And some public health researchers suggest that efforts to further regulate addictive painkillers have caused some addicts to turn to heroin.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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