Today's Heroin Epidemic

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Original published July 7, 2015

Heroin use has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. Not only are people using heroin, they are also abusing multiple other substances, especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers. As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013. States play a central role in prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts for this growing epidemic.

States can: Address the strongest risk factor for heroin addiction: addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. Increase access to substance abuse treatment services, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), for opioid addiction. Expand access to and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths. Ensure that people have access to integrated prevention services, including access to sterile injection equipment from a reliable source, as allowed by local policy. Help local jurisdictions to put these effective practices to work in communities where drug addiction is common.

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