The Program of West Palm Beach, Florida – Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

Heroin Overdoses in the Suburbs Rising


The number of heroin users who have died due to overdose has nearly doubled each of the past five years. The average people who die from heroin overdoses over the past decade aren’t old, they aren’t long time users and they aren’t black like the stereotype suggests. These people who are dying aren’t from the streets, they aren’t homeless and they don’t come from nothing. In fact, the opposite could be said is true. The people dying from heroin overdose, well, they had every opportunity afforded them to do something great with their lives.

The people who die from heroin related overdoses in the US are young, white suburban and rural 20 year-olds who live in the Midwest. This is a huge shift from 15 years ago when the death rate was highest among older blacks from the Northeast.

Heroin Overdose Deaths Only Rising

The CDC found that the number of heroin overdoses has nearly quadrupled in the past 15 years. This was according to a report released last year that took into account all the death certificates from 2013, and tallied the drug overdose deaths where heroin was involved.

The 8,257 heroin related deaths in 2013, which is the latest information we have, is staggering next to 2012’s numbers of 5, 925, and even more harrowing, when you compare them to 2010’s stats, when it was a mere 3,000.

Heroin related deaths have increased in both men and women, all age groups, blacks, whites, and Hispanics. But there were a few increases that were startling.

In 2000 the highest death rate from heroin was in blacks ages 45-64.

But in 2013, it was whites aged 18-44 who had the highest rate. Whites in that age group accounted for more than half of the overdose deaths that year. And the region with the largest problem has shifted to the Midwest.

The Shifting Trends of Opiate Use

Overall, there were about 44,000 drug overdose deaths in 2013. More than 16,000 included prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Those deaths were nearly twice as high as the heroin related deaths in 2013.

However, painkiller related deaths held steady for two years while heroin’s numbers continued to climb. Chances are this year, the numbers for heroin have now increased past prescription drugs. The reason for this, many say, is from the crack down on prescription pills.

The shifting trends in heroin use have been developing for some time.  It’s those kids we talked about who you wouldn’t expect to have a problem who now are at the top of all the statistics. It is happening to the people who expect it the least. And for good reason.

Changes in Opiate Drug Use Since the 1960’s

That’s a significant change since the 1960s, when use of the drug was more common among young men living in urban areas. Additionally, the study found that heroin users now frequently turn to the drug after first getting addicted to prescription painkillers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 15 people who take a prescription painkiller for non-medical reasons will end up trying heroin within the next 10 years.

So as you can see, we don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but the thing is, it can happen to you. Get the facts, learn about addiction, know the signs and be aware. No one has to die from this.

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