Heroin Killed More People in 2015 Than Guns

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Tony Maples Photography


According to a recent report by the Center for Drug Control (CDC) for the first time ever, heroin deaths outnumber gun deaths. Heroin usage is increasing in all age groups and all income levels. The largest increases have been in demographics with historically low heroin usage: women, higher income people and surprisingly the age group of 18 to 25. In the past decade, heroin usage by people in this age group has more than doubled.

Melting heroin on a spoon heroin killed

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Psychonaught

One trend that bothers law enforcement more than others is the fact that most heroin deaths include a mixture of two or more identifiable drugs. Among new heroin users, 75% report previous prescription opioid abuse. As law enforcement cracks down on unscrupulous doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers and the price of heroin drops in the United States, more people are becoming addicted to heroin.


Photo: Flickr/Vito Fun

Increased availability of heroin in its relatively pure form as it moves through the U.S. also contributes to the increase in heroin addiction. According to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the amounts of heroin confiscated each year at the southwest border of the United States tripled between 2008 and 2013. States with the largest increases in heroin usage include Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons/United States Marine Corp

Another trend troubling law enforcement and the medical community is fentanyl-laced heroin.  According to PBS, the National Center for Health Statistics, for the first time, isolated specific drugs linked to overdose deaths based on death certificate data. More than 47,000 people died of drug overdose in the United States in 2014, more than double the rate reported 15 years earlier, according to the study. And in 2014, heroin use was linked to nearly a quarter of those deaths.

Normally government researchers study broad categories of drugs such as opioids or stimulants when they study drug overdose deaths. Because of the new specific information available, researchers see a clearer picture of the deadlier drugs. Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, is climbing the ranks of drugs causing overdoses connected up to 4,200 overdose deaths.