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Heroin deaths are up for the third year in a row

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many more people are dying from heroin overdoses than in past years. What is particularly disturbing is the rapid jump from 2012, when 5,927 people died from a heroin overdose, to 2013, when the numbers rose to 8,260 deaths, an increase of 39 percent.

While CNN is saying there is a “silver-lining” to the data, if you want to call it that, the numbers of deaths from prescription drug abuse remained the same for 2012-2013 after spiking in 2010. It is still a very distressing picture overall.

Two things put the numbers into perspective. One, the number of deaths from drug overdoses is higher than the number of deaths from traffic accidents. And two, almost half of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are related to prescription drug abuse. The prescription drugs most often abused are opiates, like Oxycontin and Vicodin.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, it was estimated that between the years 2002 to 2011, almost 25 million people in the U.S. were abusing prescription opiates. The NEJM reported that an analysis of prescriptions for opiates showed a decrease from 2011 through 2013,

The decrease in prescriptions was attributed to better understanding of the abuse potentials of many opiates. It also showed a decrease in prescription drug overdose deaths for the 2011-2013 period. Between enforcing stricter prescription drug practices, and manufacturers making more abuse-deterrent forms of the drugs, it has become more difficult for many addicts to get their drug of choice.

This may be the reason for the increase in heroin deaths over the past few years. Opiates on the street cost $1.00 per milligram, making a 60 milligram pill worth about $60. An equivalent amount of heroin goes for about one-tenth the price. It is no wonder that the uninsured, addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are turning to the streets to find a cheaper way to feed their addiction.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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