Heroin addiction continues to be a significant public health issue in the United States, with overdose deaths peaking at 15,482 in 2017. The cost of heroin addiction on society is estimated at around \$78.5 billion per year, including healthcare costs, criminal justice expenses, and lost productivity.
August 28, 2023
The increase in heroin use and overdose deaths in the United States has had a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. This text recognizes the seriousness of the situation and aims to explore some of the statistics that shed light on its scope. It invites readers to take a closer look at the numbers behind this trend and see for themselves how alarming this issue truly is.
How Has Heroin Use Affected Overdose Deaths in the United States?
Recently, fewer people in the United States have died from heroin overdoses. But still, more than 9,000 people died from heroin overdoses in 2021. That means about three out of every 100,000 Americans died from heroin. This is really bad compared to 10 years ago when the number of heroin overdose deaths was much lower. Also, more than 11% of all deaths from opioid drugs involved heroin.
10 Key Heroin Statistics
The number of heroin users in the United States has increased by 75% in the last decade.
In 2018, there were approximately 808,000 heroin users in the United States.
Overdose deaths involving heroin have quadrupled since 2010.
In 2018, heroin was involved in 14,996 overdose deaths in the United States.
Heroin is one of the most commonly cited drugs among primary drug treatment admissions in the United States.
According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 948,000 people in the United States reported using heroin in 2016.
The cost of heroin addiction in terms of healthcare, lost productivity, and criminal justice is estimated to be over $51 billion annually in the United States.
In 2017, 81,000 people in the United States aged 12 or older tried heroin for the first time.
The purity of heroin has increased in recent years, making it more potent and more dangerous.
The majority of people who use heroin also use at least one other substance, such as alcohol or cocaine.
Heroin Statistics by Country
Number of Opioid-Related Deaths (Year)
Percentage of Deaths Involving Opioids
Over two-thirds of all drug-induced deaths
Almost three-quarters of all drug-induced deaths (excluding alcohol)
450 per year (2014-2018)
Opioids were the most commonly used drug
Opioids were the most commonly used drug
Opioids were involved in a significant portion of all drug-related deaths
While heroin use and overdose deaths are a significant problem in the United States, it is not the only country that is affected by this issue. Here are some statistics about heroin use and overdose deaths in several countries:
In Canada, there were approximately 2,000 opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl or fentanyl analogs in the first half of 2021 alone.
In Australia, there were 1,045 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, with opioids accounting for over two-thirds of all drug-induced deaths.
In the United Kingdom, there were 2,263 drug poisoning deaths involving opiates in England and Wales in 2020.
In Germany, there were 1,276 drug-induced deaths (excluding alcohol) in 2019, with opioids being involved in almost three-quarters of these cases.
In France, there were approximately 450 opioid overdose deaths per year between 2014 and 2018.
In Russia, there were over 16,000 registered deaths from drug overdoses in 2020, with opioids being the most commonly used drug.
In Iran, there were over 10,000 drug-related deaths in 2019, with opioids being the most commonly used drug.
In Mexico, there were over 18,500 drug-related deaths in 2020, with opioids being involved in a significant portion of these cases.
Heroin Use in the United States
The United States is currently experiencing a heroin epidemic, with the number of heroin users increasing dramatically in recent years.
Approximately 808,000 people in the United States reported using heroin in 2018.
In 2021, approximately 1.1 million people aged 12 or older reported using heroin in the past 12 months, which represents about 0.4% of the population in that age group.
This represents a significant increase from just a decade ago, when the number of heroin users was approximately 460,000.
According to the 2022 Monitoring the Future survey, approximately 0.3% of 8th graders, 0.2% of 10th graders, and 0.3% of 12th graders reported using heroin in the past 12 months.
According to the latest available data, there were about 9,173 overdose deaths involving heroin in 2021.
The United States is currently experiencing a heroin epidemic.
Heroin Statistics by Age
Number of Heroin Overdose Deaths (2020)
Percentage of Adults Reporting Heroin Use in Past Year (2020)
Primary Drug Treatment Admissions for Heroin Use (2020)
The impact of heroin use is felt across age groups in the United States. Here are some statistics on heroin use and overdose deaths by age:
In 2020, more than 7,000 people aged 25-34 died from a heroin overdose. This was the highest number of overdose deaths for any age group.
The second-highest number of heroin overdose deaths in 2020 was among people aged 35-44, with over 6,000 deaths reported.
More than 3,000 people aged 15-24 died from a heroin overdose in 2020.
Overdose death rates involving heroin were highest among adults aged 25–54 years old.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1% of adults aged 18 or older reported using heroin in the past year. However, this percentage was higher among young adults aged 18 to 25 (2.4%) and decreased with age (0.4% among those aged 26 or older).
In terms of primary drug treatment admissions for heroin use in 2020, the largest number of admissions were for individuals aged 26–30 years old.
Heroin Overdose Deaths by Race/Ethnicity in the US
Heroin use and overdose deaths vary by race and ethnicity in the United States. Here are some statistics on heroin use and overdose deaths by race/ethnicity:
Non-Hispanic white individuals have the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths, with 13.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.
The rate of heroin overdose deaths among non-Hispanic Black individuals was 8.3 per 100,000 in 2020.
The rate of heroin overdose deaths among Hispanic individuals was 4.6 per 100,000 in 2020.
American Indian/Alaska Native individuals had a heroin overdose death rate of 9.1 per 100,000 people in 2020.
Asian/Pacific Islander individuals had a heroin overdose death rate of 2.5 per 100,000 people in 2020.
Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin
Drug overdose deaths involving heroin rose from 1,960 in 1999 to 15,482 in 2017.
The number of deaths involving heroin then trended down to 13,165 in 2020 and 9,173 in 2021.
The bars in the graph are overlaid by lines showing the number of deaths involving heroin in combination with synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) or without any other opioid from 1999 to 2021.
The number of overdose deaths involving heroin has increased dramatically in recent years.
Heroin overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2010.
In 2018, heroin was involved in 14,996 overdose deaths in the United States.
This represents a 2% decrease from the previous year.
Heroin Overdose Deaths by State
Heroin Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Population (2019)
Number of Heroin Overdose Deaths (2019)
Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths per 100,000 Population (2020)
Percentage of People Aged 12+ Reporting Heroin Use in Past Year (2019-2020)
Primary Drug Treatment Admissions for Heroin Use per 100,000 Population (2020)
In 2019, the states with the highest rates of heroin overdose deaths per 100,000 population were West Virginia (29.6), Delaware (22.8), and Ohio (21.8).
The states with the highest number of heroin overdose deaths in 2019 were California (2,090), Ohio (1,424), and New York (1,122).
In 2020, the state with the highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths was West Virginia (52.8 per 100,000 population), followed by Kentucky (49.4) and Louisiana (42.7).
According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2019-2020, the states with the highest percentage of people aged 12 or older who reported using heroin in the past year were Rhode Island (0.9%), Massachusetts (0.7%), and New Hampshire (0.7%).
In terms of primary drug treatment admissions for heroin use in 2020, the states with the highest rates per 100,000 population were Vermont (91), District of Columbia (84), and Maryland (75).
Heroin Treatment Admissions in the United States
In 2020, heroin was the third most common drug involved in substance abuse treatment admissions in the United States.
There were approximately 142,000 admissions for heroin treatment in that year alone.
The percentage of primary heroin treatment admissions has increased from 14% in 2005 to 23% in 2019.
In terms of age group, individuals aged 26-30 had the highest rate of primary heroin treatment admissions in 2020.
According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about half of all people who sought treatment for heroin use also reported using prescription pain relievers.
Heroin Treatment Admissions: Gender and Racial Disparities
In a study by JAMA Network, they analyzed data from state-regulated programs for heroin treatment between 2000 and 2017, including a total of 6,087,697 patients. Here are some key statistics from the study:
4,043,827 (66.4%) of patients were male.
3,454,705 (56.7%) of patients were White non-Hispanic, while 1,055,059 (17.3%) were Black non-Hispanic.
5,002,350 (82.2%) of patients were aged 21 to 49 years.
Admissions were higher among men than among women for both racial groups studied.
White patients were generally younger than Black patients.
Among White patients, heroin treatment admissions increased from 2000 to 2014; however, over the same time frame, there was an overall decrease in admissions for Black patients.
Between 2014 and 2017, all racial groups experienced a large increase in admissions.
Among White patients, the age distribution remained fairly constant (concentrated at ages 21-34).
Among Black patients, the age distribution shifted toward older ages (concentrated at ages 45-54 between 2015-2017).
Cost of Heroin Addiction on Society
The cost of heroin addiction is staggering, not just in terms of human lives lost or ruined, but also in economic terms.
According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the cost of heroin addiction to society is estimated at $78.5 billion per year.
This includes costs associated with healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity.
In 2017 alone, the United States spent an estimated $15.6 billion on healthcare costs related to opioid abuse and addiction.
Heroin users are more likely to engage in criminal activity than non-users, which can lead to costs associated with law enforcement and incarceration.
The total lifetime cost of a single case of heroin addiction has been estimated at over $700,000 when factoring in healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity costs.
These high costs underscore the importance of investing in prevention and treatment programs for individuals struggling with heroin addiction.
Heroin Use Among New Users
Despite the rise in heroin use in the United States, there are still many individuals who have not yet tried the drug. However, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveals that in 2017, approximately 81,000 people aged 12 or older tried heroin for the first time. Here are some additional statistics related to heroin use among new users:
This represents a slight decrease from the previous year, when there were an estimated 92,000 new heroin users.
The majority of new heroin users in 2017 were aged 18 to 25 years (37,000), followed by those aged 26 or older (31,000).
Of the new heroin users in 2017, approximately 75% (61,000) reported prior nonmedical use of prescription opioids.
The rate of heroin initiation was highest among those who had misused prescription pain relievers in the past year (0.39%), compared to those who had used cocaine (0.08%) or methamphetamine (0.16%).
The states with the highest estimated rates of past-year heroin initiation were Rhode Island (1.6%), Massachusetts (1.3%), and New Hampshire (1.2%).
The Potency of Heroin
The purity of heroin has risen significantly in recent years, which has contributed to its increased potency and danger. Here are some key statistics related to the potency of heroin:
According to data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the purity of heroin seized by law enforcement has increased from approximately 7% in the 1980s to over 50% in recent years.
This increase in purity is due in part to the increased availability of heroin from Mexico, which is often more pure than heroin from other sources.
The rise in heroin purity has led to an increase in overdose deaths. In 2018, there were over 14,000 overdose deaths involving heroin in the United States.
The risk of overdose is particularly high for individuals who have recently been released from prison or jail and may have lost their tolerance for opioids during their time behind bars.
The high potency of modern heroin also poses a challenge for medical professionals who treat opioid addiction. Patients who are used to taking lower-potency opioids may require higher doses of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to achieve the same level of relief, which can increase the risk of side effects and complications.
Polydrug Use and Heroin
Polydrug use is a common phenomenon among heroin users, and it can have serious health consequences. Here are some key statistics related to polydrug use and heroin:
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly all individuals who use heroin also use at least one other substance, such as alcohol or cocaine. Specifically, approximately 98% of people who use heroin also use at least one other substance.
The combination of heroin with other substances can increase the risk of overdose. For example, mixing heroin with alcohol or benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Valium) can depress the central nervous system and lead to respiratory failure.
Polydrug use can also complicate treatment for opioid addiction. Patients who use multiple substances may require more intensive treatment and monitoring to address their complex needs.
The link between polydrug use and opioid overdose deaths is clear. In 2018, over 60% of opioid overdose deaths involved at least one other drug besides opioids.
Heroin use in the United States has been on the rise since the 1990s, with overdose deaths reaching a peak of 15,482 in 2017. Although there has been a slight decrease in recent years, heroin addiction remains a significant public health concern.
The cost of heroin addiction to society is estimated to be approximately $78.5 billion per year, including healthcare costs, criminal justice expenses, and lost productivity. Polydrug use is common among heroin users and can lead to serious health consequences, including an increased risk of overdose.
While targeted prevention efforts aimed at reducing nonmedical use of prescription opioids and addressing other risk factors for heroin use among new users are critical, effective treatment options for those struggling with addiction remain essential.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network
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