Speed Reads

Numbers don't lie

Study: U.S. heroin deaths doubled in 2 years

A new study published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that U.S. deaths from heroin overdoses doubled between 2010 and 2012.

The data is only based on the 28 states that had figures available for the CDC, though, and the number of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers in the U.S. is down. Still, deaths from drug overdoses have increased in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, according to Time.

Heroin overdose deaths rose from 1,779 to 3,665 in the two-year time frame, resulting in an increase from 1.0 to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Time notes that the figures "held true for both men and women across all age groups and all races except for American Indians and Alaskan natives."

As Time reports, "the increase in heroin deaths may be linked to a crackdown on abuse of prescription opioid painkillers, making the synthetic drugs more expensive at a time when heroin is flooding the market." The study authors note that those who began using heroin after 2000 indicated that the drug is "is more readily accessible, less expensive, and offers a more potent high" than prescription painkillers.

However, even though prescription painkiller overdoses are down, they're still more common in the U.S. than overdoses from heroin, accounting for 5.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2012. The study authors noted that the numbers "indicate a need for intensified prevention efforts aimed at reducing overdose deaths from all types of opioids." The study added that the increased heroin overdoses are "especially concerning," encouraging clinical interventions for the abuse of both prescription painkillers and heroin.