- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Heroin use in the United States is growing, with more than 500,000 people estimated to be addicted to the dangerous narcotic, the federal government said Tuesday.

The average rate of past-year use of the illegal drug has jumped more than 62 percent in the last decade, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its new report.

The rate of past-year heroin use rose from 1.6 per 1,000 persons age 12 and over in 2002-04 to 2.6 per 1,000 in 2011-13, the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Some 517,000 persons reported past-year heroin abuse or dependence in 2013, a nearly 150 percent increase since 2007.

In May, for instance, a batch of heroin led to more than 30 overdoses in an 11-day period in Marion, Ohio. A 19-year-old girl and 34-year-old man died, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Tragically, heroin overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled, rising from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2002 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013, the CDC said.

Researchers found that heroin abuse was most likely among people who had also abused prescription pain-killers or cocaine.

The study also said that while heroin use was up in many demographic groups, rates of heroin initiation were reported to be highest among males, whites, people 18 to 25 years old, those with an annual household income below $20,000, and people who lived in the Northeast.

Most heroin users also had a history of “nonmedical use of prescription opioid pain relievers,” said the agency, which asked health care workers to do more to stop wrongful prescribing of narcotic painkillers and help people into substance-abuse treatment programs.

The new study is based on data from the National Vital Statistics System and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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