Heroin Use is Rising and Fueled by OxyContin

Heroin Use on the Rise

Heroin is Popular with 18-25 Year Olds

Like clothing styles, the popularity of some illegal drugs goes in and out of fashion.  Heroin, which saw a surge of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, was eclipsed by Ecstasy and cocaine in the decades that followed.  Now heroin use is once again on the rise. A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times reported that heroin use in the suburbs of Chicago increased by 46 percent between 2008 and 2009.  Further evidence was reported in an Associate Press survey of 36 states which found that heroin deaths rose 20 percent from 2006 to 2008.

Increased Availability of Heroin

The U.S. Department of Justice attributes the rise in heroin abuse  in part to the increased availability of the drug.  Its National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010 reports that heroin is widely available in parts America and that availability is increasing in many other areas.  As a result, the price of the drug is decreasing and the number of heroin-related overdoses and deaths are on the rise.

The source of most of the heroin currently being used in America is Mexico.  Heroin from South America and Afghanistan is also available in the U.S., but in lower quantities.  The report estimates that from 2004 to 2008, heroin production in Mexico increased by over 300 percent, from approximately 9 metric tons to 38.

The Department of Justice has found that many prescription opioid abusers are switching to heroin in areas where it is cheaper and more available than prescription drugs.  Some opioid addicted individuals build up a tolerance to prescription drugs and turn to heroin for a more intense high.  Another factor is the recent introduction of a new OxyContin tablet that makes it more difficult to crush and inhale the drug, sending many OxyContin abusers in search of heroin.

Average Age of Heroin Abusers is Dropping

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the majority of heroin and opioid drug abusers are between the ages of 18 and 25.  This new class of users has access to heroin that is much stronger and more pure than heroin of the past.  While heroin in the 1970s was about 3 percent pure, today’s heroin has a purity level of 60 percent.  Unfortunately, because today’s heroin is more potent, there is a greater risk of overdose than in the past.  In November of 2010, ABC News reported on the growing problem of teenage heroin addiction and the increase in overdoses in Seattle, Washington and in small towns throughout the midwest.

Will Heroin Sweep the Nation?

The highest concentrations of heroin abusers are currently in the northeastern portion of the country, with methamphetamine abuse dominating the west.  Due to the increasing quantities of heroin flowing across the border from Mexico, it may be just a matter to time before this new surge of heroin abuse sweeps the entire nation.