Heroin use has been increasing in recent years among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases have occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. In particular, heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade among young adults aged 18 to 25 years.

Heroin-Related Overdose Deaths

As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths:

  • Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.
  • From 2014 to 2015, heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6%, with nearly 13,000 people dying in 2015.
  • In 2015, males aged 25-44 had the highest heroin death rate at 13.2 per 100,000, which was an increase of 22.2% from 2014.

Risk Factors

Past misuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for starting heroin use – especially among people who became dependent upon or abused prescription opioids in the past year.3 This indicates that the transition from prescription opioid non-medical use to heroin use may be part of the progression to addiction.

  • More than nine in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
  • Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.

Increased availability, relatively low price (compared to prescription opioids), and high purity of heroin in the U.S. also have been identified as possible factors in the rising rate of heroin use. According to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the amounts of heroin confiscated each year at the southwest border of the United States were approximately ≤500 kg during 2000–2008. This amount quadrupled to 2,196 kg in 2013.