The Skyrocketing Toll of Heroin Use
On February 11, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the incidence of Heroin use in the United States increased by an average of 7% each year from 2002 to 2016. Then, from 2016 to 2018, the incidence of Heroin use declined by a total of 14%. Overall, Heroin use in America nearly doubled from 2002 to 2018, according to the study. The researchers used data from a 17-year national survey of over 800,000 American adults to assess the number of Heroin users in the country.
Additionally, the study found that the number of people in America who lost their lives to Heroin increased drastically over the course of the past two decades. In 2002, Heroin overdoses claimed the lives of 2,089 people. In 2018, Heroin overdoses killed 15,259 people.
The surge in Heroin-related fatalities which has ravaged America has contributed greatly to the devastating effects of the Opioid Epidemic. According to the CDC, about 100 Americans continue to die every day as a result of an Opioid overdose. People who struggle with addiction to prescription Opioids are more likely to develop an addiction to Heroin.
One addiction expert, Dr. Lawrence Brown Jr., responded to the study by explaining that people often transition from Opioid pills to Heroin because Heroin is easier to obtain and costs less to buy. Dr. Beth Han, a researcher for the study, highlighted this problem in a 2015 study on Opioid addiction.
Heroin and Hepatitis C
Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive drug. The main ingredient of Heroin is Morphine, a natural Opioid. Heroin is commonly snorted, smoked, or injected. A person who uses Heroin repeatedly risks a variety of long-term health consequences, including bacterial infections of the heart valves, collapsed veins, damaged nasal tissue, and liver and kidney failure. A Heroin overdose will cause a person to stop breathing and potentially die from suffocation.
Additionally, Heroin injections increase a person’s risk of contracting hepatitis, a viral infection which causes liver inflammation. People who inject Heroin are particularly at risk for contracting hepatitis C, for which there is no vaccine or cure. The JAMA study found that the increasing incidence of Heroin use has correlated to an increase in hepatitis C infections. Dr. Nora Volkow, another researcher for the study, blamed dirty needles. “The problem is there are many places where access to clean syringes and needles is not available,” she said. According to the study, the rate of Heroin injections is highest for Americans between the ages of 26 and 34 years old who live in the Northeast. All age and geographic groups reported higher rates of Heroin injections in 2018 than in 2002.