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Heroin Death Rate Doubled within the U.S., Report Finds

Update Date: Oct 03, 2014 10:39 AM EDT

The latest numbers calculated by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated an increase in the death rate caused by heroin in 28 states. The death rate for prescription painkillers, however, has fallen slightly.

For this report, the researchers examined available data from 28 states. Between 2010 and 2012, the rate of deaths caused by heroin in general doubled from 1.0 to 2.1 per 100,000 people. More specifically, the number of cases has increased from 1,779 to 3,665. 15 out of the 28 states reported increases in their heroin overdose death rates. This spike in deaths affected men and women in all age groups as well as all races with the exception of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

The death rate tied to opioid pain relievers (OPR) fell from 6.0 to 5.6 per 100,000 within these two years. The OPR overdose death risk decreased particularly for men, abusers under 45-years-old, Southern residents, and non-Hispanic whites. Out of the 28 states, five states reported an increase in the OPR death rate whereas seven states reported a decrease.

"Combined mortality data from 28 states, encompassing 56% of the U.S. population, indicate an increasing problem with fatal overdoses from heroin from 2010 to 2012. Death rates from OPR declined overall but remained more than twice as high as heroin overdose death rates. Changes in heroin death rates were positively correlated with changes in OPR death rates. Mortality from overdoses of any type of drug rose slightly," the researchers wrote.

They added, "The findings indicate a need for intensified prevention efforts aimed at reducing overdose deaths from all types of opioids while recognizing the demographic differences between the heroin and OPR-using populations. Efforts to prevent expansion of the number of OPR users who might use heroin when it is available should continue."

The study, "Increases in Heroin Overdose Deaths - 28 States, 2010 to 2012," was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

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