Increasing Addiction to Prescription Opioids Fuels Rise in Heroin Overdose Deaths

Tuesday, October 07, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Overdose deaths from prescription drugs have continued to rise, and so have fatalities from heroin use. The two are interconnected, federal health experts warn.


As prescription opioid use has gone up, the population of people addicted to them has also expanded. For many addicts, the journey from pharmaceutical fixes to street remedies like heroin is all too common. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrates this relationship.


The CDC studied deaths related to overdose in 28 states and from 2010 to 2012; heroin deaths doubled in all of those states. “While the majority of prescription opioid users do not become heroin users,” the CDC reported, “previous research found that approximately 3 out of 4 new heroin users report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.”


The CDC added that two factors are causing the increase in heroin overdoses: an increase in heroin supplies “and widespread availability of prescription opioids and increasing opioid addiction rates.”


 “Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Overdose Deaths from Heroin on the Rise in the U.S. (redOrbit)

Fatal Heroin Overdoses on the Increase as Use Skyrockets: Health Officials Battling Opiate Epidemic (by Kim Krisberg, Nation’s Health)

Heroin Overdose Deaths Increased in Many States Through 2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Increases in Heroin Overdose Deaths — 28 States, 2010 to 2012 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Heroin Epidemic Panic Used to Distract from Greater Problem of Fatal Prescription Overdoses (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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