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Staying Informed on Vital Heroin Statistics

Many people believe that heroin will never play a role in their life or the lives of their loved ones. These same people would be shocked to know just how prevalent heroin abuse and heroin addiction are throughout the United States.

Consider the following statistics on the sale, use, and fallout of this incredibly dangerous drug.

Prevalence of Heroin Users

Heroin use has become more common in states across the country. The opioid epidemic is not bound to any specific demographic. Instead, it affects people across multiple age groups, ethnicities, and geographical locations. For instance:

  • 948,000 people used heroin in 2016.2
  • A 2016 survey found that 11.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused opioids during the previous year.2
  • National surveys show that about 1.8% of people over age 12 have used heroin at some point in their lives.5
  • In 2016, 0.1% of people ages 12 to 17, 1.6% of people ages 18 to 25, and 2.1% of people ages 26 and older had used heroin at some point in their lives.5
  • The number of people using heroin is increasing in size at a much faster rate than any other drugs of abuse.10
  • The number of people reporting current heroin use tripled between 2007 and 2014.10
  • Heroin use increased across most demographics between 2002-2004 and 2011-2013.1
  • The number of females using heroin increased by 100% during that same time period, and the number of males increased by 50%.1
  • Heroin increased by at least 60% among people of all income levels between 2002-2004 and 2011-2013.1
  • In 2009-2010, around 22% of male prison inmates and 31% of female prison inmates abused heroin in the 6 months prior to their incarceration.4
  • In 2016, 3.6% of adolescents abused opioids.2
  • In 2017, 0.7% of 8th graders, 0.4% of 10th graders, and 0.7% of 12th graders had used heroin at some point in their lives.5

Increased Availability

The availability of heroin has increased rapidly since 2007. Heroin is now available in large quantities to people in urban, suburban, and rural locations. For many people, it is cheaper and easier to acquire than prescription opioids.10 Key stats tell us that:

  • Availability is highest in the Northeast and in parts of the Midwest.10
  • The police seized 80% more heroin in 2015 than in 2011.10
  • Fentanyl, another deadly opioid, is showing up in heroin and illicit painkillers. The number of drugs submitted by law enforcement that tested positive for fentanyl went from 5,343 in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015.11
  • High availability of heroin means the price has gone down considerably.10

Developing an Addiction

Opioid addiction affects thousands of people every year. With the rise of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids as adulterant drugs, heroin is more dangerous than ever. Every day, more and more people around the country overdose on this dangerous drug. Concerning stats include that:

  • In 2016, an estimated 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder.2
  • About 626,000 people had a heroin use disorder in 2016.2
  • It is estimated that 23% of people who use heroin become addicted.7
  • Heroin users first began using prescription opioids in 4 out of 5 instances.7
  • More than 9 out of 10 people who use heroin also use another drug.1
  • People with other substance abuse problems are far more likely to use heroin. People who abuse alcohol are twice as likely to use heroin, and people addicted to painkillers are 40 times more likely to use it.1
  • Heroin overdose deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.1
  • Opioids contributed to 42,249 deaths in 2016 (5 times more deaths than in 1999).8

Seeking and Receiving Treatment

Many people that are addicted to heroin do not get help from a drug rehab center. Because they are unable or unwilling to admit that they have a problem, they fall deeper and deeper into the cycle of addiction.

The more serious the issue becomes, the greater the chance of overdose or the contraction of a disease such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis (in the case of those shooting the drug with needles rather than smoking or snorting it).

Below are some statistics on treatment for heroin addiction:

  • In 2016, 636,000 people received substance abuse treatment for heroin addiction, but only 235,000 sought treatment at a specialty treatment facility (rehab program).13
  • Despite an increase in heroin addictions, heroin treatment admissions have remained steady over the past two years.13
  • 17% of people who receive substance abuse treatment are there for heroin addiction.13
  • In 2013, there were more treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities for heroin than for any other drug.10
  • The number of people receiving methadone at opioid treatment programs increased from 227,000 in 2003 to more than 306,000 in 2011.14
  • The percentage of opioid treatment programs offering buprenorphine increased from 11% in 2003 to 51% in 2011. The number of people receiving buprenorphine at opioid treatment programs increased from 727 in 2004 to 7,020 in 2011 and from 1,670 in 2004 to 25,656 in 2011 at facilities that did not have opioid treatment programs.14
  • In 2016, about 2.2 million people received treatment for drug addiction, a decrease from 2015.13
  • Blacks, Latinos, and Native Indians are far less likely to seek drug abuse treatment than whites.13
  • About 43% of people who received treatment for drug addiction in 2016 went to a self-help group like Narcotics Anonymous; only about 23% received treatment in an inpatient rehab facility.13


  1. Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Today’s Heroin Epidemic.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Understanding the Epidemic.
  4. Kevin, Maria. (2013). Drug Use in the Inmate Population: Prevalence, Nature, and Context.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Heroin: Brief Description.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Prescription Opioid Use is a Risk Factor for Heroin Use.
  7. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2016). Opioid Addiction: 2016 Facts and Figures.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Drug Overdose Death Data.
  9. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  10. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2016). (U) National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary: Updated.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Reported Law Enforcement Encounters Testing Positive for Fentanyl Increase Across US.
  12. Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2018). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use: 1975-2017: Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use.
  13. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2017). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Section 5: Substance Use Disorder and Treatment Tables.
  14. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Trends in the Use of Methadone and Buprenorphine at Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities: 2003 to 2011.

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