A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. In addition, people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use within the past 12 months than others in that age group, the report found.
The report came as part of SAMHSA’s larger efforts to identify some of the factors behind the rise in the rates of heroin use, dependence and initiation that have occurred in the past few years across the nation.
According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period, SAMHSA said.
In addition, the report identified a significant shift between 2008 and 2011 in heroin initiation levels and patterns: for example, although overall heroin initiation rose among all 12-to-49 year olds, these increases were only seen among adults aged 18 to 25 and 26 to 49, with no change in the rate among youths aged 12 to 17. Heroin initiation among people with annual incomes less than $20,000 or $20,000-$49,999 also increased during this time period, the agency said.
Past-year heroin initiation rates rose sharply in all regions of the nation during this period except the for the south, where the rate stayed at the lowest in the country, and heroin initiation rates were also lower among blacks than among other racial and ethnic groups, SAMHSA said.