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Article Summary

Heroin Statistics In The United States

Heroin is currently classified by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Authority) as a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. This means that it has:

  • A relatively high potential for abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction
  • No recognized use as a medication

As such, all possession of heroin without a valid license is prohibited. Other drugs that fall under the same DEA classification include peyote, ecstasy, and LSD - meaning that heroin is among the most dangerous of drugs.

In the recent past, the seizure of the drug by the DEA has enabled the continuous tracking of the overall use of heroin in the United States. In 1999, usage reached an all-time low of about 400 kg but continued increasing steadily over the next decade to reach more than 1000 kg by 2011.

Understanding Heroin

Heroin is a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive and can produce intense euphoric and pleasurable feelings. From 2010 to 2016, the number of deaths related to this drug increased by over 5 times.

In recent years, also, the use of the drug has been increasing particularly among demographic groups that historically had low rates of heroin abuse: those with a high income, the privately insured, and women.

Additionally, it was estimated that more than 828,000 people in the country aged 12 years and older abused this drug in the year preceding 2015 while over 11,000 hospitalizations happened in 2014 as a result of unintentional poisonings related to heroin.

U.S. Heroin Statistics

Consider the following statistics of heroin use in the United States:

a) Hospital Admissions

The statistics following below relate to the admissions into treatment facilities related to heroin use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, addiction, and overdose. They run from 2002 to 2012 for Americans aged 12 years and older:

  • 2002 - 157,914
  • 2003 - 157,184
  • 2004 - 146,407
  • 2005 - 145,033
  • 2006 - 146,697
  • 2007 - 145,923
  • 2008 - 157,731
  • 2009 - 156,450
  • 2010 - 141,307
  • 2011 - 145,143
  • 2012 - 120,239

Who Abuses Heroin?

Additionally, statistics that are currently available on the abuse of heroin have shown a steady rise since the early years of the new millennium, particularly in:

  • The amount of money people spend on the drug
  • The number of deaths commonly associated with heroin abuse
  • The number of people who use heroin

Consider the following statistics about the number of chronic users of this drug in the United States (given in millions):

  • 2000 - 1.4
  • 2001 - 1.4
  • 2002 - 1.3
  • 2003 - 1.3
  • 2004 - 1.3
  • 2005 - 1.2
  • 2006 - 1.2
  • 2007 - 1.2
  • 2008 - 1.3
  • 2009 - 1.5
  • 2010 - 1.5

Although the number of past month and past heroin users stabilized over the last 2 years of the study and the admissions to treatment facilities decreased, it is still difficult to tell whether this shows a decline in the abuse of the drug in the country or a temporary pause in its popularity.

The following heroin statistics in the United States show the number of people who reported having used the drug in 2012 and 2013:

  • 2012 - 4,565,000
  • 2013 - 4,812,000

On the other hand, the statistics below show the total number of people aged 12 years and above who used it within the last month of the study:

  • 2012 - 335,000
  • 2013 - 289,000

Within the last year of the study, the following people used heroin:

  • 2012 - 669,000
  • 2013 - 681,000

According to the DEA and NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), this upswing in heroin abuse is now linked to the dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions written out by doctors for opiate painkillers since the 90s.

In many cases, therefore, it is highly likely that some people first become addicted to these prescription painkillers before switching to heroin once they discover that it costs less than most of the other illicit pharmaceutical narcotics sold on the street. This switch, however, tends to be prevalent among those who use oxycodone.

Consider the following important heroin statistics in the United States from the Monitoring the Future National Survey and the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) from 2013:

  • More than 170,000 Americans aged 12 and above tried heroin for their very first time that year; this number has not seen much change over the past 10 years
  • Over 680,000 people abused the drug at one point or the other in 2013; this number is a steady increase from the more than 370,000 that was recorded in 2007

In the same way, a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 2015 examined data from the National Vital Statistics System and the NSDUH and reported several trends in the use of heroin from 2002 all the way to 2013. These trends include:

  • From 2002 to 2013, the use of heroin increased by an overall of 63%; these increases were observed in all income levels, most age groups, and both genders
  • The number of women who used heroin doubled from 0.8 percent to 1.6 percent in the decade running from 2002 to 2013
  • Data derived from the 2011 to the 2013 reports showed that the greatest risk factors for abusing heroin among the various demographics included: Medicaid insurance coverage, less than $20,000 household income, living in an urban area, non-Hispanic white race, 18 to 25 years old, male gender, and with reports of abuse, tolerance, dependence, or addiction on opioid pain relievers in the past year

Internet Interest In Heroin

From the internet searches that included the term heroin, there were similarities in the patterns of known heroin statistics in the United States relating to the abuse of the drug. The most notable parallels included a sharp increase in the total number of searches for the drug since 2004 as well as an increase in the number of searches that were initiated in Northeastern states - including those in the region that is most affected by a resurgence in heroin addiction.

Market For Heroin

Around the world, the demand for this drug is global in nature with more than 560 tons of heroin produced globally and an estimate of more than 16.4 million opioid users in 2013.

Although heroin is particularly problematic in the United States, figures relating to law enforcement seizures and use of the drug have shown that the Russian Federation and Central Asia are at the center of the global market for the heroin.

The statistics below relate to the annual market size (in billions USD) for this drug around the world in 2010:

  • US - 27
  • Western Europe - 20
  • Kazakhstan and Russia - 13

One of the main reasons behind the severe heroin problem in Iran, Russia, and all neighboring countries is the close proximity to the preeminent producer of the drug in the world - Afghanistan.

For many Afghans, the cultivation, production, and sale of opium have long formed a major source of regular income. The industry is so robust that it survived both the 2001 American invasion as well as the harsh Taliban rule in the country.

In fact, Afghanistan has dedicated four times as much land to the cultivation of the poppy plant as the next major source of heroin in the world, Myanmar. Additionally, the total amount of opium that is produced in the country per hectare is far higher than any other producing country. As a result, Afghanistan produced close to 80 percent of the entire global supply of heroin - including that which finds its way to the United States.

However, Afghanistan is not the primary source of the heroin that is in the United States. Most of it, rather, comes from Colombia. As a direct result, the market forces in the US are different from those in Asia and Europe.

In recent years, the effective cooperation of Colombian and US anti-narcotic efforts have seen a steady decrease in the supply of the drug (as well as of cocaine) in the United States. This has had the direct effect of increasing the price of both drugs.

Although the increase in heroin use in the United States over the last decade and a half have been mostly due to - in a large part - the low price of the drug in comparison to the pharmaceutical painkillers sold on the black market, the street prices have been increasing sharply particularly in recent years.

In 2010, a kilo of pure heroin ranged in price from $33,000 to $100,000. In the future, it will be much clearer whether this low price is a major contributing factor towards the slowing growth of heroin use and abuse over the past few years.

Heroin And The Law

As mentioned above, heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. As such, there are sever legal penalties in place for anyone found to be in possession of the drug.

The first time federal charge for simple possession often leads up to 1 year of prison time. On the other hand, the charges for trafficking heroin - which are typically brought up in cases that involve relatively large amounts (100 grams or more) of the drug might carry a minimum sentence of 5 years for first time offenders and a maximum of $5 million in fines.

Some states have also created their own laws that penalize the possession of heroin, which they can impose over and above any federal sentence you get. Among the harshest of these states laws is the one that Kentucky passed in 2015. Under this new statute, possessing as little as 2 g of the drug might result in a sentence of 5 to 10 years of jail time while those found with over 100 grams of heroin might receive 10 to 20 year sentences.

The Dangers Of Heroin

Pure heroin is similar to most opioid drugs in the sense that its main danger lies in its potential to cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction. All these conditions can sometimes cause life-threatening overdose if you continue abusing the drug.

Apart from its undeniably dangerous and hazardous nature, heroin is mostly manufactured in unregulated environments and used under risky conditions. Therefore, you can be sure that obtaining this drug and use it are both dangerous activities.

Consider the following statistics related to the annual deaths that have been linked to heroin abuse in the United States:

  • 2008 - 1,786
  • 2009 - 2,058
  • 2010 - 1,779
  • 2011 - 2,679
  • 2012 - 3,635

The heroin statistics in the United States that are listed below relate to emergency room visits linked to heroin use and abuse:

  • 2004 - 214,432
  • 2005 - 187,493
  • 2006 - 189,780
  • 2007 - 188,162
  • 2008 - 200,666
  • 2009 - 213,118
  • 2010 - 224,706
  • 2011 - 258,482

As an user, you also face many other dangers when you decide to take this drug. This is because batches of it on the street tend to vary in terms of strength as well as the level of impurities in them.

Some manufacturers use a wide variety of adulterant substances - some that can be quite potent, for instance Fentanyl - to dilute heroin. By so doing, they effectively place their clients at a heightened risk of drug poisoning, allergic reactions, cardiovascular issues, and overdose.

On the other hand, if you take heroin intravenously (by injecting it), you might increase your risk of suffering a potentially fatal and adverse overdose. This is particularly true if you do so with a batch that is purer than you anticipated. Most overdose victims lose their lives because their breathing will stop.

However, you can also increase the danger of fatality when you mix heroin with other depressants - such as tranquilizers and alcohol. The only way to prevent this from happening is by ensuring you never use heroin irrespective of the situation you find yourself.

If you overdose, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately. If you are seen by a doctor in time, they might treat the overdose with opioid antagonist like Narcan (naloxone) to reverse the adverse effects of heroin.

You should also keep the following heroin overdose statistics in mind:

  • In 2010 more than 188 opioid overdose prevention programs used naloxone
  • From 1996 to 2010, over 10,171 opioid overdoses were effectively and successfully reversed through the use of naloxone

Still, using heroin intravenously comes with many other inherent dangers that are separate from those the drug poses. This is because you might find yourself sharing non-sterilized needs (and other injecting drug paraphernalia), which could increase your risk of:

  • Contract diseases like Hepatitis or HIV
  • Abscesses


Overall, the greatest danger that comes with abusing heroin is its incredibly high potential to cause addiction, dependence, and tolerance. Addiction to this drug is so powerful that it will compel you to continue using heroin in spite of any negative consequences you suffer in your finances, personal, and professional life. Users may end up losing their friends, wealth, and families as a result of heroin. Understanding these statistics should motivate you to seek treatment immediately if you are addicted to heroin.








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