Heroin Overdose Deaths Are Increasing; Painkiller Deaths Are Decreaseing

According to askmen.com deaths caused by heroin overdose have increased four-fold since 2000, based on a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings are in stark contrast to the decrease of overdose deaths from painkiller medication.

The U.S., is seeing a trend in prescription drug abusers gravitating toward heroin as a result of successful legislation aimed at curbing prescription medication abuse. It is much more difficult to access prescription narcotics and some drug manufacturers have altered the formula of pain medications like Oxycontin to make it harder to abuse.

On the illicit drug market heroin has gotten cheaper and easier to get. “Once people are dependent on prescription drugs, it’s very rare for them to stop on their own with no treatment. If the drugs are suddenly less abusable, they will switch to something else that will alleviate withdrawal,” said Kelly Dunn, a research professor from the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The studies showed that during 2000-2013 deaths from heroin overdose increased from 0.7 fatalities per 100,000 to 2.7 fatalities per 100,000 in 2013. These statistics represent a 37 percent increase in annual deaths from heroin overdose in America. Contrary to these findings, deaths caused by prescription medications have declined from 5.4 per 100,000 to 5.1 per 100,000.

The study also documented that heroin abuse has increased in communities that don’t have a history of significant heroin abuse. Regions like New England, the Midwest and rural communities are seeing alarming rates of usage, in some Midwest communities heroin-related deaths have increased by 11-fold.

Recent high-profile deaths like that of actor Phillip Hoffman, who overdosed in 2014 at age 46 and died from respiratory failure (a common contributor to deaths among heroin abusers). His death has attracted mainstream attention to this issue. Researchers suggest that increased legislation, aggressive drug prevention campaigns and more drug rehabilitation facilities are the best solutions to decrease heroin abuse and fatalities from overdose.