Opioid Addiction and Methadone as a Treatment Option

The Heroin Abuse Statistics You Need to Know About

The United States in the middle of a heroin crisis and has been for the last decade. According to statistics, roughly five times as many Americans are using heroin than a decade ago, and about three times as many are addicted.

Additionally, it has been found that in the years following 2010, nearly four times as many people died of heroin overdose than in the early 2000’s. According to another statistic, the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose in 2015 was over six times what it was in 2002.

With these facts in mind, you may be wondering what else you should know about heroin abuse? Is there any information out there that might help me avoid heroin abuse, recover from it, spot it in someone I love or help them recover?

The answer to all of these questions is “yes.” The first rule of any struggle is “know your enemy” and knowing what heroin is, why it’s addictive and why it’s dangerous can do you a world of good.

Read on to learn more.

Origins of Heroin and Heroin Abuse

Humanity’s connection to heroin dates back to the 19th century. In fact, it is mentioned in some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories that Sherlock Holmes uses heroin.

Heroin comes from the poppy plant and is technically classified as an opiate. Opiates like heroin were one of the awful by-products that came with the creation of better painkillers like morphine.

Roughly 13.5 million people use opiates around the world. Of these, only 4.3 are not using heroin.

Heroin and the Prescription Drug Issue

The abuse of prescription painkillers is at an all-time high, and this had a major effect on heroin abuse. Painkillers ten to be a gateway drug to heroin, and the statistics back this up.

Nearly half of all heroin users also use painkillers. Of those that inject heroin, about half reported that they abused painkillers first.

Another statistic reports that people who are addicted to painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin. Others state that this likelihood is only nineteen times greater, though this is still staggering compared to other drugs.

Though prescription painkillers are far more dangerous, heroin deaths are rising rapidly. Prescription painkillers were responsible for roughly 18,000 deaths in 2015, up just slightly from around 17,000.

Meanwhile, heroin caused almost 13,000 deaths in 2015, up from 10,000 the previous year, and 8,000 the year before that. Prescription opiates, on the other hand, experienced a dip in 2012-13, only to recover over the next two years.

The Average User

So, if we had to describe the quintessential heroin user, the one that all of the statistics describe, what would they look like? How do they live?

He’s Male

According to a study conducted by Columbia University, heroin addiction grew more among males than it did females. On a related note, males die from heroin overdose far more often than women do.

He’s White

This same study concluded that heroin use was rising far more quickly among whites than any other race. Currently, whites also account for the largest amount of overdose deaths from heroin. This is a stark change from the early 2000’s when the average was much higher among black people between their 40’s and 60’s.

He’s Lower-Middle-Class or Below

Columbia reported that heroin use was rising among those with lower income. One major reason for this may be that heroin is surprisingly affordable. If you spent sixty dollars on prescription opiates and six dollars on heroin, you would have roughly the same amount of both drugs.

He has little education. According to Columbia, heroin increased significantly among those with little education. This is not surprising, seeing as lower education may result in a lower-paying job, which would result in the need for a cheaper drug.

  • He’s young. According to the CDC, heroin use has more than doubled in those aged 18-25 compared to a decade ago.
  • He’s addicted to multiple drugs. A study conducted by the CDC in 2013 found that over 95% had used another drug. Just over 60% used at least three. To combine this with earlier statistics, one of this ‘patient zero’s’ other drugs of choice is probably a prescription painkiller
  • He has health issues of some kind, and maybe multiple. A report from the SAMHSA states that those with pretty much any kind of health problems, be it an injury or painful condition, a substance abuse disorder, any other form of mental health problem and even just poor health in general increases the chances of heroin abuse.
  • He’s been discriminated against at some point. Maybe this guy was treated pretty badly growing up because of his health issues. Maybe some other factor caused people to mistreat him. Either way, discrimination is also a potential risk factor for heroin addiction.

Things to Look For

If you think that somebody you know may be suffering from a heroin problem, but aren’t sure, there are some signs to look out for.

A lot of these factors will be obvious, things that you’d probably pick up on before too long. If they’re acting weird, neglecting various things from work to hygiene, asking for money a lot or having run-ins with the law, they may be using heroin or other drugs.

Some of the more subtle ways to spot addiction involve looking for certain health issues. If they are prone to infections or contract a serious one. They may also have constipation, bad skin, depression or trouble sleeping.

What’s Next?

Now that you know a little more about heroin and heroin addiction, what should you do? Getting off of drugs is hard, and, to level with you, heroin is particularly tough to kick.

Still, there are things you can do to make it easier. Perhaps just learning more about opiates and what you can expect when getting clean might help. Perhaps someone else has the problem, and you aren’t sure how to help them.

We’re here with a whole host of resources to help you. Heroin addiction, really any kind of addiction is tough to get rid of. There are a lot of places committed to helping you and a lot of people who’ve been where you are. You’re not alone.

About the author

Dr. Michael Carlton, MD.

Leading addictionologist, Michael Carlton, M.D. has over 25 years of experience as a medical practitioner. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and returned for his MD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1990. He completed his dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and his Fellowship in Toxicology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

He has published articles in the fields of toxicology and biomedicine, crafted articles for WebMD, and lectured to his peers on medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Carlton was a medical director of Community Bridges and medically supervised the medical detoxification of over 30,000 chemically dependent patients annually.

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