The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released comparisons from their national survey that shows how much heroin use has increased over the last several years. The number of people who reported heroin use jumped from just over 400,000 in 2002 to more than 680,000 by 2013. While numbers for 2014 are not yet available, it is likely that the total will be even higher.
Experts have also looked into the link between prescription painkillers and heroin. While many people who become dependent on their pain medications admit to moving to heroin, this does not necessarily mean that the heroin addiction problem in our country is being fueled only by painkiller addicts. In fact, there is also a number of people who go straight to using heroin first. Discovering what other motivators are out there for people to resort to abusing heroin is essential to prevent more people from experimenting with and becoming addicted to the deadly drug.
Heroin and other opiates have been claiming lives for centuries. However, the latest boom of users and skyrocketing overdose deaths can be traced largely to pharmaceutical companies flooding the U.S. market with multiple narcotics with a high potential for abuse, coupled with aggressive sales tactics.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde told USA Today that level of heroin use in the United States is "alarming." That's certainly an understatement, since there are more people than ever losing their lives to the drug.
Despite the jumping statistics, heroin use is still much less than drugs such as prescription painkillers and marijuana. There are about 11 million and 33 million users, respectively. However, the death rates for heroin users are much higher.