A new CDC study found that rates of drug poisoning deaths involving heroin almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2013, from 0.7 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000. Increases were observed in all age groups, U.S. regions, and race and ethnicity groups. The analysis also uncovered a demographic shift- in 2000, non-Hispanic blacks aged 45-64 had the highest rate of heroin deaths. By 2013, non-Hispanic whites aged 18-44 had the highest rate.
Opioid drug-poisoning deaths are more common (16,235 vs 8,257 in 2013), but death rates have declined slightly between 2010 and 2013, whereas heroin-related death rates nearly tripled during the same period. The study did not explore the reasons for this sharp increase, but a potential explanation could be that expanding prescription drug monitoring programs have pushed opioid users to switch to heroin. The connection between opioid abuse and heroin is supported by a CDC study released last fall, which found that 75 percent of people who started using heroin after 2000 had already abused opioids.
The CDC recommends increasing the availability of naxalone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose on the brain. Recent price increases for naxalone have made it difficult for police officers and other first responders to stock the drug. The New York Times reported that the cost of a nasal naxolone dose nearly doubled last fall to $40. And Evzio, the hand-held naxalone auto-injector approved by the FDA last year, can cost over $300 a dose. Local officials, members of Congress, and non-profit organizations are all working to negotiate down costs.