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CDC: Heroin Use Up Among Women, Wealthier People

Prescription opioid addiction often precedes use of street drug

WEDNESDAY, July 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The face of heroin addiction in the United States is changing, as groups with historically lower rates of heroin use, including women and people with private insurance and higher incomes, are becoming users, federal officials reported Tuesday. The findings were published in the July 7 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Heroin use has increased 63 percent over the past decade. From 2002 to 2004, the annual rate of heroin use was 1.6 per 1,000 persons aged 12 or older. By 2011 to 2013, that rate was 2.6 per 1,000 people, CDC officials said. Correspondingly, there has been a rapid increase in heroin overdose deaths. The number of heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013, and 8,257 people died from the opioid in 2013. Overdoses have nearly quadrupled since 2002, the officials said.

The people most at risk for heroin addiction include whites, males, 18- to 25-year-olds, people making less than $20,000 a year, Medicaid recipients, and the uninsured, the CDC researchers found. But the biggest increases in heroin use in recent years were found in groups least expected to use the drug, including women, people with private insurance and higher-income individuals. The gaps in heroin use between men and women, people on Medicaid or with private insurance, and those with low or high incomes have all narrowed during the past decade, the CDC said.

About 45 percent of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioids from 2011 to 2013, the researchers found, more than double the rate from 2002 to 2004. Prescription drug abuse is "the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse or dependence," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said during a media briefing. People addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin, according to the CDC's report. By comparison, cocaine users are 15 times more likely to use heroin, and marijuana users are just three times more likely to use heroin, the CDC noted.

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