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CDC: Heroin use in U.S. growing at 'an alarming rate'

By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |   July 7, 2015 at 3:12 PM

ATLANTA, July 7 (UPI) -- Heroin use in the United States has grown at an "alarming rate," resulting in double the overdose deaths between 2011 and 2013, health officials said Tuesday.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found use of the recreational drug increased between 2002 and 2013 across multiple demographic groups -- gender, age and income level. The study found the biggest increase in use, though, was among groups who historically had lower rates of use, including women, and people with private insurance and higher incomes.

And it's not just heroin use that's increasing, it's also overdose deaths. Between 2011 and 2013, heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled to more than 8,200 in 2013.

"Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response -- to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin."

The report, which analyzed data from the 2002-2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also found 96 percent of people who reported using heroin also used at least one other drug in the past year and 61 percent reported using at least three other drugs.

The demographic groups most at risk of heroin abuse are whites, men, 18- to 25-year-olds, people with an annual household income less than $20,000, Medicaid recipients and the uninsured.

Meanwhile, the study found people who abuse or are dependent on prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin. This finding is consistent with a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014, which found there has been an uptick in heroin use since a national crackdown on prescription drug abuse in the past decade.

"We are working with federal, state and local partners to increase access to effective treatment, while reducing overdoses and other consequences of the opioid epidemic, including the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV," said Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy. "It is not enough to simply reverse overdoses. We must also connect overdose victims and people struggling with prescription drug and heroin use disorders to treatment facilities and doctors that offer medication-assisted treatment."

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