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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CDC Study: Heroin Overdose Deaths Double

The federal government’s crackdown on prescription drug abuse can hardly be considered a success. While use of prescription opioids like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone) has decreased, owing mainly to the shutting down of “pill mills” and it being harder to “doctor shop;” unfortunately, the aforementioned efforts has led to a higher demand for heroin, a drug that is cheaper and in many cases stronger than prescription painkillers.

As one might expect, the increase in heroin use has led to higher death rates associated with the drug. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that heroin overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2012, according to Reuters. The CDC stated that the increase in heroin overdoses is the direct result of years of over-prescribing prescription painkillers.

After the year 2000, the study showed that 75 percent of heroin users in treatment programs said they abused prescription opioids before switching to heroin. In the 1960’s more than 80 percent of heroin users said they hadn’t abused another drug before heroin. The link between prescription opioids and heroin use could not be more apparent after looking at those figures.

The study found that deaths from heroin rose from 1 to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people between 2010 and 2012; while deaths from prescription opioid declined from 6 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000.

“The rapid rise in heroin overdose deaths follows nearly two decades of increasing drug overdose deaths in the United States, primarily driven by (prescription painkiller) drug overdoses,” the CDC researchers wrote.

The CDC believes that increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and the use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone is needed to help curb the growing problem.

“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”

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