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Heroin Epidemic

More people at risk and more drugs abused

Most demographic groups are increasingly using heroin and other drugs. During the past decade, heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels, with some of the greatest increases occurring in demographic groups that have had historically lower rates of heroin use, according to a new Vital Signs report.

  • A wider variety of people are using heroin. Rates remained highest among males, 18–25 year olds, people with annual incomes less than $20,000, people living in urban areas, and people with no health insurance or those enrolled in Medicaid. However, rates increased significantly across almost all study groups. They doubled among women and more than doubled among non-Hispanic whites.
  • It is common for people who use heroin to use other drugs. Nearly all (96 percent) people who reported heroin use also reported using at least one other drug in the past year. More than half (61 percent) used at least three other drugs. Prescription opioid painkiller abuse or dependences was the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse or dependence; 45% of people who used heroin also abused or were dependent on prescription opioid painkillers in the past year.
  • As heroin abuse or dependence increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. From 2002 through 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled.

Everyone can learn more about the risks of using heroin and other drugs. Learn how to recognize and respond to opioid overdose. Get help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP). For more information about prescription drug overdose, please visit CDC's Injury Center.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Vital Signs Links

Factsheet:
English [1.24MB]
Spanish [1.94MB]

Spokespersons

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Biography

Photo: Dr Thomas Frieden

"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. 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."

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Debra Houry, MD, MPH

Debra Houry, MD, MPH

Biography

Debra Houry, MD, MPH

"In only 10 years, heroin use has more than doubled among people who abused or were dependent on prescription opioid painkillers. In fact, in this study, the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse or dependence was abuse or dependence on opioid painkillers. To respond to this epidemic, we have to do two things—ensure appropriate prescribing and use of opioid painkillers to keep at-risk people from starting heroin and expand treatment and recovery for those already abusing or dependent on opioid painkillers or heroin. States are critical to both of these efforts."

Debra Houry, MD, MPH - Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH

Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH

Biography

Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH

"The increases in heroin abuse and dependence and heroin-related overdose deaths are impacting communities across the nation. More can be done at the state and community-level to prevent, treat, and help people recover from heroin use. Everyone can play a part in reversing this epidemic."

Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH - Senior Advisor, Office of Public Health Strategy and Analysis, Office of the Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services

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