Study: American heroin use jumps fivefold in 10 years

The number of adults in the United States who reported using heroin at some point in their lives increased by approximately fivefold over the span of a decade, according to a new analysis of two surveys published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

To assess the changes in the prevalence of heroin use in the U.S., researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of two nationally representative, face-to-face household surveys conducted in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. Collectively, the surveys included 79,402 respondents. The results revealed the amount of adults who reported having previously used heroin at least once increased from 0.33 percent in 2001-2002 to 1.6 percent in 2012-2013, which correlates to approximately 3.8 million Americans. The study also revealed the number of adults who had experienced a heroin use disorder more than tripled over the decade, increasing from 0.21 percent to 0.69 percent.

"There are more people in the U.S. using heroin, there are more people that meet criteria for heroin addiction and we are seeing increases in all different social strata, in different age groups, in both sexes," said Silvia Martins, PhD, MD, an associate professor in epidemiology from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City and the study's lead author, according to The Guardian.

While researchers found heroin use to be rising overall, researchers found that among racial demographics, whites displayed a sharper rise in heroin use compared to other groups with 0.34 percent reporting use in 2001-2002 and 1.9 percent reporting use in 2012-2013. Additionally, when assessing for the possible link between abusing prescription opioid medications and heroin use, researchers found the number of non-whites abusing prescription pills prior to using heroin fell between the two surveys. However, among whites, the number increased from 35.8 percent to 52.8 percent. This, according to the study's authors, is indicative of the history of opioid access.

"When prescription opioids started becoming widely available in the U.S. a lot of physicians wouldn't prescribe them for non-whites," said Dr. Martins, according to The Guardian. "If you don't have access to a certain drug for medical purposes you are less prone to use it for nonmedical purposes and then you are less prone to use another drug that might be related to [it]."

Every day, 91 Americans die of an opioid overdose, according to the CDC.

More articles on opioids: 
Gov. Chris Christie to lead Trump's new opioid commission: 5 things to know 
Partners, GE help lead initiative to combat opioid epidemic in Massachusetts 
Report: Premature death rate surges in suburban areas due to drug overdoses

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