The use of heroin in the United States tripled from 2007 to 2014 according to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA’s findings also show deaths involving opioid tripling in recent years while death due to synthetics also were on the rise. A health crisis is happening, find out more on the rising epidemic of heroin addiction and what is being done to stem the tide.


Among findings of growing heroin use in the United States, numbers expanded to 435,000 in 2014, an increase of three times over 2007. This is only based on self reported use of heroin so the numbers could be higher. Estimates range anywhere from 600,000 heroin users on up. Deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and other mimics of prescription painkillers increased 79% in just a year between 2013 and 2014.

Opioids and Synthetics

Synthetic opioids are being used as painkillers due to the creation of drugs by Purdue Pharma in Connecticut. Sackler brothers, all psychiatrists, wrote a paper which contributed to the successful sedative Valium being explored as a pain medication which became the first $100 million drug. The generic painkiller oxycodone was invented in Germany during World War One. Under the generic painkiller, product names such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin came into use. When OxyContin was crushed, the time-release mechanism was broken and the drug could be snorted for a heroin-like high. Abuse, overdoses and deaths soon followed. While the Sackler brothers were making a Forbes list of billionaires, people on the ground were dying in record numbers.


Drug addiction to opioids led to ‘doctor shopping’ where individuals visited a number of physicians to obtain prescriptions. Nearly 76 percent of people seeking help for heroin addiction began by using pharmaceutical narcotics including OxyContin. Millions of people depend on drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet or Lortab for relief from severe pain but were becoming quickly addicted. Underground demand grew as laws changed and people created inexpensive counterfeits to sell on the street.

Heroin Epidemic

Heroin is a threat particularly in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern areas of the United States. Law enforcement agencies across the country report seizing large quantities of heroin. Most of the drug is now entering the US from the Southwest border with Mexico. The 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary comes a week after the UN’s World Drug Report 2016 which found a number of heroin users in the US reached nearly 1 million in 2014, three times more than in 2003.


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