As studies continue to show the medical benefits and minimal dangers that marijuana provides to the human body, it’s also becoming clear that heroin use in this country is out of control and the epidemic is getting worse. Gone are the days of smoking weed and getting a buzz. These days, people in the U.S. have easy access to drugs that are highly addictive and equally as deadly. A new study proves the damage that is being done, claiming between 2002 and 2013, heroin overdose deaths almost quadrupled. The dipping cost of the drug, along with the abuse of prescription opiate painkillers, are what U.S. health officials are pointing to as the leading causes of this dramatic increase.
According to an article in Yahoo Health, the report found that during the above-mentioned years, heroin use increased by 63 percent. In 2013, about 517,000 people reported that they had used heroin in the last year–that’s a 150 percent increase from 2007. In 2013, alone, as many as 8,200 people died from heroin overdoses.
Dr. Thomas Frieden is the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He told Reuters that the availability and easy access to pharmaceutical drugs is also an issue, as medicines like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet can increase a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to heroin addiction. The report found that almost all people (96 percent) who use heroin also use other substances, and that the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse is prescription opiate abuse. People who abuse prescription opiates have a 40 times greater risk of abusing heroin and that is partly to blame for the large rise in overdose deaths.
It’s become evident that U.S. health officials haven’t come up with a way to stop the heroin epidemic, since it crosses all racial and cultural boundaries. Over the past few years, people in almost every demographic group are using the drug more. For example, according to the article, heroin use has doubled among women.
Dr. Frieden went on to say that in order to reverse the epidemic, it will require an “all-society response” to improve opioid prescribing practices and expand access to effective treatment. He said, “There are lots of people who have not yet gotten an opiate and we need to protect them from the risk of getting addicted. Doctors are prescribing way too much of these medications, and the result of it is large numbers of people who are addicted.”