- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

When the actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of a heroin overdose, he was one more statistic in a growing trend.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday found that the number of deaths attributed to heroin abuse doubled between 2008 and 2012 in the 28 states studied.

Of the 18 states examined that had at least 20 deaths from heroin overdose, all 18 saw an increase in overdose fatalities in 2012. In the 28 states studied, 11,937 deaths were caused by heroin overdose. Of the death certificates of those who died from overdosing, 22 percent of the certificates did not specify which drugs were involved, so the actual number could top 12,000.

Death rates from heroin increased in every age cohort, ethnic group (except American Indians/Alaskan Natives) and region of the country. Men were nearly four times as likely to overdose from heroin as women, and 25- to 34-year-olds had the highest heroin-overdose death rate. From 2010 to 2012, the death rate from heroin overdose increased from 1.0 to 2.1 people per 100,000 in the population.

Officials say the trend’s future is hard to predict. “It’s a volatile situation,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Len Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study looked at 2012 overdose-death data from death certificates and compared it with 2010.

The 28 states sampled include more than half of the U.S. population and account for more than half of the nation’s drug-overdose deaths.

Overdose numbers from all the states are not expected to be released for at least a few more months.

While the heroin death toll doubled, deaths linked to opioid painkillers fell in the 28 states, from 10,427 in 2010 to 9,869 in 2012. The death rate declined to 5.6 per 100,000.

The study said timely surveillance data is needed to target prevention efforts and called for clinical intervention. A recent study of heroin users revealed that long-term treatment programs offer a better success rate for recovering heroin addicts, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse urges addicts to turn to treatment to overcome their addiction.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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