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Monday, June 2, 2014

The Changing Demographic of Heroin Users

10 grams of no.3 heroin
The heroin crisis in America has reached staggering proportions and is no longer exclusively an inner-city problem; heroin may find its way into this country through major cities but the drug is making a home in suburban areas and used predominantly by Caucasians, according to The Washington Post. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has called the problem a “full blown heroin crisis” and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling it “the scourge of New York”.

JAMA Psychiatry has published a new study that highlighted how the times have changed regarding heroin abuse in the United States. Just 50 years ago heroin users lived in the cities and were predominantly minority men. Today, many heroin users live in nonurban areas, are much older, and are almost split evenly between male and female.

The study showed that the road to heroin was paved with prescription opioids and those walking the road were looking for a much cheaper and stronger alternative to prescription drugs. At the Washington University School of Medicine, Theodore Cicero, vice chairman of research, analyzed survey responses of treatment center patients in order to understand the changing demographics.

According to Cicero's research:
  • In the 1960s, 82.8 percent of heroin users were men, but today about an equal rate of men and women are now seeking treatment for heroin use.
  • In the 1960’s, Caucasian heroin users seeking treatment was just above 40 percent, by 2010 it was 90.3 percent.
  • In the 1960’s, the mean age of those seeking treatment was 16.5 years old, by 2010 it was 22.9 years old.
Heroin has been available in this country for a long time and it clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Yet, in the 1960’s more than 80 percent said heroin was the start of their opioid use, but in the 21st century 75 percent of those who have used heroin reported having used a prescription opioid before using heroin.
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