Rates of prescription opiate use such as OxyContin and methadone have been increasing at an alarming rate. Independent studies as well as government organizations which document treatment admissions, overdoses, and deaths all report an upward trend that shows no signs of slowing down. But as these drugs become more difficult to obtain, users are shifting to heroin as a drug that is readily available and cheap. This trend has pushed heroin demographics from the city to the suburbs, creating an increasingly white, twenty-something user base that shows no gender bias.
While current new users are initiated through prescription opiates, data suggests more and more of these users are switching to heroin due to three factors: a faster high, a cheaper cost, and an easiness to obtain. As prescription opiate use rises, so does heroin use. This is not a coincidence.
One reason for heroin being cheaper to obtain is that the supply has gone up drastically. According to the National Seizure System data, the amount of heroin seized each year at the Southwest border increased:
There is undoubtedly an opiate epidemic occurring in the U.S., and the demographics for both heroin use and prescription opiate use have dramatically shifted to that of white, twenty-somethings who are increasingly less likely to be located in urban/metropolitan areas.
In addition, while men make up a large majority of new and current users, women are right behind them. In some studies, women are shown to be the majority, especially when it comes to usage and treatment of prescription opiates.
Source: Treatment Episode Data Set 2001 - 2011
Research also shows that as prescription opiate users have a harder time obtaining drugs like OxyContin, they turn to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible substitute.
Source: The Journal of The American Medical Association
Treatment Episode Data Set 2001 - 2011
2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality Data Review, August 2013
2013 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary
The Journal of The American Medical Assocation, May 2014