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Heroin Epidemic in the United States

Most demographic groups are increasingly using heroin and other drugs. During the past decade, heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels, with some of the greatest increases occurring in demographic groups that have had historically lower rates of heroin use, according to a new Vital Signs report.

  • A wider variety of people are using heroin. Rates remained highest among males, 18–25 year olds, people with annual incomes less than $20,000, people living in urban areas, and people with no health insurance or those enrolled in Medicaid. However, rates increased significantly across almost all study groups. They doubled among women and more than doubled among non-Hispanic whites.
  • It is common for people who use heroin to use other drugs. Nearly all (96 percent) people who reported heroin use also reported using at least one other drug in the past year. More than half (61 percent) used at least three other drugs. Prescription opioid painkiller abuse or dependences was the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse or dependence; 45% of people who used heroin also abused or were dependent on prescription opioid painkillers in the past year.
  • As heroin abuse or dependence increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. From 2002 through 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled.

Everyone can learn more about the risks of using heroin and other drugs. Learn how to recognize and respond to opioid overdose. Get help for substance abuse problems (1-800-662-HELP). For more information about prescription drug overdose, please visit CDC's Injury Center.

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