Heroin overdose deaths increase fourfold from 2010 to 2015

The share of heroin-related overdose deaths in the United States increased from 8 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2015, according to a new data brief released Friday by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2010, there were 3,036 overdose fatalities related to heroin in the U.S.. In 2015, that number increased more than fourfold to 12,989 heroin-related overdose deaths, according to a Reuters report citing data from the NCHS. As a result, heroin surpassed gun homicides to become the most lethal killer in 2015.

Friday's study also found the share of drug overdose deaths from prescription opioids dropped from 29 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015. Experts have previously suggested a decrease in the availability of prescription opioids could be driving increases in the rates of heroin abuse. Also, previous research found the release of abuse-deterrent OxyContin correlates to the rising trend of heroin abuse.

"You are 40 times more likely to use heroin if you started with opioid painkillers," said Rich Hamburg, executive vice president of the nonprofit health organization Trust for America's Health, according to Reuters.

Mr. Hamburg also cited the falling price of heroin, which can cost as little as one-tenth the cost of a prescription opioid, as a driving factor in the rates of heroin use in America.

"Heroin is part of America's larger drug abuse problem," said Mr. Hamburg.

More articles on opioids: 
Minnesota lawmakers introduce 5 bills to combat opioid epidemic 
15 states where drug overdose deaths increased most from 2014-2015 
Michigan lawmakers to vote on opioid tracking laws

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