Heroin use growing at 'alarming rate,' feds warn

Heroin use growing at 'alarming rate,' feds warn
© Getty Images

Heroin use is skyrocketing in the United States, warns a new report from federal health officials released Tuesday.

Officials found heroin use growing across all income levels and among both men and women in the new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The study also found that the rise in heroin use is being driven by those already addicted to other substances, including prescription opoids, which are powerful painkillers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Abusers of prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin. Vicodin, oxycodone and morphine are the most commonly prescribed opioids.

“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,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement.  

Frieden said it would require an "all-of-society" effort to halt the epidemic, including a push "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."

Heroin overdose deaths have quadrupled from 2002 to 2013, and doubled between 2011 and 2013 alone, according to the study.

“Approximately 120 people die each day in the United States of a drug overdose,” added Drug Enforcement Administration acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg. “We will continue to target the criminal gangs that supply heroin, and we will work to educate folks about the dangers and to reduce demand.”

The latest report comes with lawmakers increasingly calling attention to the growing number of overdoses from heroin and painkillers.

The administration has also ramped up its efforts, with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell devoting more resources to fight prescription drug abuse. HHS is working to change practices for prescribing these drugs and increase the availability and use of drugs such as naloxone that can prevent overdoses.

The administration called for $133 million in its fiscal 2016 budget to address heroin and prescription drug overdoses.