Heroin Death Rate Doubled in 28 States, 2010-2012

A CDC analysis of death certificate date from the states showed that despite the spiking heroin overdose fatality rate, twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses in those states during 2012.

A CDC report published in last week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that heroin deaths in 28 states doubled from 2010 to 2012. The agency analyzed death certificate data from 28 states to come up with that finding, but it also reported that, despite this spike in the heroin-related death rate, more than twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses in those states in 2012.

"Though not directly addressed by this study, two things appear to be driving the increase in heroin overdoses: (1) widespread prescription opioid exposure and increasing rates of opioid addiction; and (2) increased heroin supply," the agency noted in a news release. "While the majority of prescription opioid users do not become heroin users, previous research found that approximately 3 out of 4 new heroin users report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin. This relationship between prescription opioid abuse and heroin is not surprising; heroin is an opioid, and both drugs act on the same receptors in the brain to produce similar effects. Heroin often costs less than prescription opioids and is increasingly available."

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

The 28 states represented 56 percent of the U.S. population.

For more information about prescription drug overdoses, visit www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose.

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