Overdose Deaths From Heroin On The Rise In The US

April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that heroin deaths have risen sharply in many US states. The findings, published in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, were developed from death certificate data from 28 states. Despite this rise, twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses than heroin overdoses in these states in 2012.
According to John Tozzi of Bloomberg Businessweek, there is a link between prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. Previous research has shown that nearly 3 out of 4 new heroin users identify as having used prescription opioids before starting heroin.
Although not part of the study, the CDC finds two factors driving the increase in heroin overdoses. The first factor is widespread prescription opioid exposure and increasing rates of opioid addiction. The second factor is an increased heroin supply. The researchers do not find this relationship surprising as heroin is a type of opioid, so both drugs act on the same brain receptors to produce similar effects.
“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a CDC statement. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”
The study looked at changes in heroin and prescription opioid death rates in 28 states — representing 56 percent of the total US population — between 2010 and 2012. During the study period, overall heroin deaths doubled across all 28 states. BusinessWeek reports that the researchers found 3,635 overdoses in the 28 states in 2012, up from 1,779 in 2010. In Kentucky alone, heroin deaths tripled during the study period.
As for prescription opioid rates, five states had increases, seven states had decreases and the remainder had no change. No state showed a decrease in heroin rates during the study period.
“This study is another reminder of the seriousness of the prescription opioid overdose epidemic and the connection to heroin overdoses,” said Grant Baldwin, Ph.D, M.P.H, Director, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. CDC and other federal agencies are working to promote a smart, coordinated approach to reduce inappropriate prescribing and help people addicted to these drugs.”
The researchers suggest that helping those already addicted to prescription opioids and heroin is as important as addressing issues with prescribing habits to prevent future addiction.