Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Heroin Overdose Deaths Quadruple Since 2000


Lethal poisonings from prescription painkillers down slightly, U.S. report says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Heroin overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, quadrupling since 2000, U.S. health officials reported Wednesday.

At the same time, poisoning deaths related to painkiller abuse have leveled off, even dropping slightly in recent years, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prescription drug addicts are turning to heroin due to successful efforts to curb narcotic painkiller abuse, said Kelly Dunn, an assistant professor in the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It's now harder to obtain prescription narcotics, thanks to improved tracking and regulation of the drugs, Dunn said. In addition, manufacturers have changed the formulation of painkillers like OxyContin to make them more difficult to abuse.

"Heroin's cheaper and easily available, and we're seeing increases in places that traditionally haven't had much heroin use," Dunn said. "Once people are dependent on prescription drugs, it's very rare for them to stop on their own with no treatment. If the drugs are suddenly less abusable, they will switch to something else that will alleviate withdrawal."

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reports that between 2000 and 2013, the age-adjusted rate for overdose deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled, rising from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 Americans in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013.

One of the most recent high-profile deaths was that of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in February 2014 from a heroin overdose at age 46.

Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, noted that Hoffman had been in recovery for a long time. "Then he went back to using, and ended up dying from respiratory failure. Heroin is a respiratory depressant, and it shut down his respiratory system," Pasierb said.

The CDC researchers found that most of the increase in heroin deaths occurred recently -- between 2010 and 2013. During that time, the United States experienced a 37 percent-per-year increase in heroin deaths, the study found.

source : Heroin Overdose Deaths Quadruple Since 2000

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