Many heroin addicts were former pill abusers: report

heroinspoonA 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.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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2 Responses to Many heroin addicts were former pill abusers: report

  1. Butte County’s Drug-Induced Death Rate Skyrockets

    August 18, 2013

    Butte County’s citizens have died from drug-induced death at a rate 3.5 times higher than the state average, according to the California Department of Public Health & Butte county Public Health. Drug-induced deaths include all deaths for which drugs are the underlying cause, including alcohol. The majority of drug-induced deaths now come from prescription drugs.
    In 2012 of the 72 overdose deaths only 3 were attributed to alcohol directly, but frequently overdose victims have used alcohol with other drugs.
    From 2010 through 2012 drug overdoses killed 254 victims according to Butte County Public Health. That’s an average of 85 overdose victims per year, which means that someone dies every 4.3 days on average or almost two victims per week.
    Within the last 10 years, 641 citizens have died from drug overdoses. In 2000, there were 13 overdose victims. By 2007, that number went up by 81 percent to 67 overdose victims. The drug-induced death rate has risen dramatically in recent years.
    To put it another way, residents of Butte County are 2.5 times more likely to die from a drug-induced death than from a motor-vehicle crash.
    In 2012, the youngest overdose victim was 16; the oldest was 84. Of this group, 28 were females and 44 males, with a combined average age of 48 years old. Overdoses are killing more 30, 40 & 50 year old individuals than any other age demographic.

    With few exceptions those who have died from a drug overdose had more than one drug in their system. Nationally, pharmaceutical drug use now kills more people than illicit drugs.
    Obviously, a problem of this magnitude will require a countywide effort and extremely strong leadership.
    The best case scenario would be for Butte County’s hospitals, medical professionals, county supervisors, health services, law enforcement, city leaders, community service organizations, citizens, and Chico State University to all say that enough is enough and that it is time to address this issue collectively.
    Recently Chico lost 5 victims to alcohol use and the list from the above paragraph mightily awoke from their deep, deep sleep. On the other hand in the last decade Butte County has lost over 640 victims, currently one every 4.3 days, the majority from prescription drugs and the silence is deafening.
    Butte County citizens must decide if men, women and children dying from drug overdoses every 4.3 days is acceptable. If not, is Butte County willing to do the hard work needed to begin reducing this extreme rate of senseless drug-induced deaths?

  2. durgrehaborg says:

    I would be very interested to see how those numbers have changed since 2011. The numbers almost doubled in a 12 month period and 24 months have passed since. Very interesting.

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