Heroin Deaths Surpass Gun Homicides
According to a recent report in The Washington Post, the rate of heroin deaths in the United States has surpassed the rate of gun deaths. Referencing data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015, The Post reports that deaths involving prescription painkillers and other opioids have been surpassed by heroin overdose deaths and those involving other powerful synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl.
Heroin and other opiate-related deaths rose significantly between 2014 and 2015 — by nearly 75%. Other data gathered from 2015 shows that gun homicides that year numbered 12,979, while heroin deaths that year numbered 12,989. This is a narrow margin, but a disturbing trend.
Heroin Use Has Been Increasing
Many addiction treatment experts view prescription opioids like OxyContin and hydrocodone as “gateway” drugs that lead people who become addicted to start using illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Opioid painkillers, which many people initially receive as prescribed medications, can be very expensive and difficult to get as more doctors are becoming wise to the fact that patients are using the pills to get high. When these patients can no longer refill their opioid prescriptions, many seek out the less expensive heroin, which has led to increased rates of heroin use in the U.S., and a veritable boom in the heroin market.
Heroin Addiction and Heroin Fatalities
Statistics show that the new face of heroin addiction is a young, white male. And, because heroin is viewed as a “street drug” and associated with the stigma of criminal activity, many who become addicted to it don’t seek addiction treatment, or don’t have access to it.
Further, the risk of heroin overdose or overdose from other opioids and opiates is high. Experts note that many people addicted to one form of opioid will mix the drug with another substance, raising their risk for opioid/opiate overdose or toxicity. The CDC’s data on opioid deaths includes cases where more than one drug was involved in the death, illustrating the fact that many opioid fatalities result either from too high a level of opioids in a person’s system or lethal toxicity caused by a combination of drugs — sometimes multiple opioid types, and sometimes opioids combined with alcohol or other substances.
Heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time, CDC data shows. Christopher Ingraham. The Washington Post, December 2016.
Drug Overdose Death Data. Statistically significant drug overdose death rate increase from 2014 to 2015, US states. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 2016.