- From 2010 to 2012, the death rate from heroin doubled across 28 states that represent 56 percent of the U.S. population, according to a new government report released Thursday.
The increase in heroin overdoses - from one per 100,000 deaths to 2.1 per 100,000 deaths - was driven by increasing supplies of the drug and the widespread use and addiction to prescription opioid pain relievers.
The findings, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continues a trend observed in national mortality data from 2011. They also support previous research that found three out of four new heroin users reported abusing prescription opioids before turning to heroin.
The report found that more than twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses in the 28 states than from heroin in 2012.
But overall, the death rate from opioid overdoses declined from 6 per 100,000 in 2010 to 5.6 per 100,000 in 2012.
“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” said a statement by CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”
Nationally, heroin deaths increased 45 percent from 2010 to 2011. That's the largest annual increase since 1999.
The rising death rates reflect a 74 percent increase in the number of heroin users ages 12 and older from 2009 to 2012, the report said.
The report found heroin death rates increased substantially in all census regions, for both males and females, and for all age groups and all racial and ethnic groups, except for American Indians and Alaskan natives.
Non-Hispanic whites had the highest overdose death rates from both heroin and opioid pain relievers.
Young adults ages 25 to 34 had the highest heroin overdose death rate in 2012, while middle-age adults ages 45 to 54 had the highest death rates from opioid pain relievers.
“This study is another reminder of the seriousness of the prescription opioid overdose epidemic and the connection to heroin overdoses,” said a statement by Grant Baldwin, director of CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. "CDC and other federal agencies are working to promote a smart, coordinated approach to reduce inappropriate prescribing and help people addicted to these drugs.”