From 2010 to 2011, the nation experienced its largest increase in heroin-related overdose deaths, climbing a drastic 45% in a one-year timespan. From 2010 to 2012, the number of overdose-related deaths caused by prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone dropped from 6 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000 people after quadrupling from 1999 to 2010. This slight decrease is opiate painkiller overdose may very well be attributed to increased prevalence of heroin abuse, and increased heroin abuse seems to be directly linked with previous years of narcotic opioid dependency. In a recent study conducted on heroin abusers in treatment for addiction, 75% reported having initially used prescription painkillers, claiming they eventually made the switch to heroin because it was more available, affordable, and potent than opioid prescription drugs. In complete contrast to this current trend, 80% of those that were abusing heroin in the 1960s immediately began using the drug without any distinct gateway.
Heroin Overdose Deaths on the Rise
The increasingly common transition from pharmaceutical painkillers to heroin is only partially responsible for the drastic increase in heroin overdose deaths. A major component of climbing overdose rates is the incorporation of highly injurious substances such as fentanyl and rat poison into currently circulating strains. Dealers will cut heroin with dangerous chemicals to reduce their costs and increase profit while either oblivious to or (more likely) ignoring the fact that the drugs they are selling will more likely than not kill the user on impact. Fentanyl, a painkiller that has been found to be around 100 times more powerful than morphine, is responsible for overdose deaths across the East Coast, devastating regions in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, and Rhode Island significantly.
Increase in Heroin Deaths is Preventable
Since the dramatic climb in overdose-related deaths directly linked to heroin in 2010, the annual rates of mortality have remained somewhat stagnant. Major efforts are being made to raise awareness and prevent heroin abuse by limiting the accessibility of opioid narcotic painkillers. Prescription pill “take back” events are now being hosted in cities nationwide, allowing citizens the opportunity to safely dispose of unused and expired prescriptions at local drop-box locations. In order to find a safe disposal site near you, simply search “prescription take-back” and the city in which you reside. Talk to your children about the newly emerging dangers of heroin use, and if you or someone you love shows signs of drug addiction, call one of our trained representatives today in order to explore a comprehensive list of treatment options.