Heroin overdose deaths quadruple, use spikes across U.S.

NBC Nightly News (7/7, story 6, 2:35, Holt, 7.86M) reported that the CDC released “alarming new numbers...showing a dramatic rise in the heroin epidemic,” with heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupling between 2002 and 2013, and the number of women using the drug doubling. Click on the link to see the news story.

The Washington Post (7/8, Bernstein, 5.03M) “To Your Health” blog reports that the majority of “people who became addicted to heroin used other drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.” However, those “who are addicted to prescription opioid pain-killers are 40 times more likely than those who aren’t to become addicted to heroin, by far the greatest risk factor of any examined.” The blog adds that Dr. Frieden “called for more judicious use of the pain-killers by physicians who, he said, should seek other ways to manage some forms of chronic pain.”

USA Today (7/8, Szabo, 5.01M) reports that Dr. Frieden “said he’s alarmed that the reach of heroin is expanding – a trend that could make it harder to fight the epidemic.” Dr. Frieden noted that “as heroin addiction deepens, many users turn to needles for a more intense high.” That, in turn, “has fueled a new set of public health problems, including an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana and a resurgence of hepatitis C nationwide, Frieden said.”

The AP (7/8, Stobbe) reports that “heroin has become a popular alternative” to prescription opioid pain medications. “It is essentially the same chemical as that in the prescription painkillers, but it costs roughly five times less on the street, said...Frieden,” who further explained, “An increasing number of people are primed for heroin use because they were addicted to an opioid painkiller.”

The Hill (7/8, Hardiman, 533K) reports that in a statement, Dr. Frieden “said it would require an ‘all-of-society’ effort to halt the epidemic, including a push ‘to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin.’”

The NPR (7/8, Harris, 1.52M) “Shots” blog reports that the overall “death toll” from heroin overdoses “has skyrocketed in recent years. It’s up from 1,800 in 2001, according to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.” The blog points out that “in 2013 alone, more than 8,200 Americans died of heroin overdoses.” Dr. Frieden said, “As a doctor who started my career taking care of patients with HIV and other complications from injection drugs, it’s heartbreaking to see injection drug use making a comeback in the US.”

The Los Angeles Times (7/8, Girion, 4.03M) reports in “Science Now” that the “Vital Signs” report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that “2.6 out of every 1,000 US residents 12 and older used heroin in the years 2011 to 2013,” representing “a 63% increase in the rate of heroin use since the years 2002 to 2004.” Over that same period of time, “the rate of heroin abuse or dependence climbed 90%...according to the study by researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”