CDC: 1 in 4 fatal drug overdoses linked to heroin in 2015

Chart showing the rise of heroin and fentanyl in opioid drug overdose deaths in the US

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 25% of US drug overdoses in 2015 were related to heroin.

Death by heroin overdose has risen much in the US. Those numbers were higher for non-Hispanic white people, whose overdose rate increased at a seven percent average each year. Biggest surprise is the age group most affected by overdose deaths Overall, the increase in drug overdose deaths was 2.5 times higher in 2015 as compared to 1999, with increases seen in both males and females, although male deaths were higher. From 2010 to 2015 death rate because of heroin overdose has quadrupled.

Overdoses outpaced suicides and vehicle crashes as a cause of death in 2015, the report said, according to ABC News. Generally, overdoses of opioid painkillers continued to be a leading killer, but heroin and synthetic opioids, such as deadly fentanyl, are behind an increasing number of deaths. Fatalities tied to cocaine ticked up slightly, while natural and semisynthetic opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, decreased from 29 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015. From 1999 to 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths in this age group increased from about 4 deaths per 100,000 people to about 22 deaths per 100,000 people.

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The researchers from the CDC explained that this decrease could be related to a change of habits in consumers, as majority started in prescripted drugs like oxycodone and then moved forward to drugs like heroin due to cost and legal reasons (polemic of prescripted opioids as legal treatments). For context, in December, an analysis of CDC data by The Washington Post found the number of heroin-related deaths now exceeds gun homicides.

According to the new government data, Appalachia a mountainous eastern region of the United States, including Kentucky, and the so-called Rust Belt states in the north, including OH and MI, are among the hardest hit with heroin addiction. Other studies have also reflected this rising trend among white, middle aged Americans.

Slovis said some illicit synthetic opioids can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.

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The DEA has issued a list of drugs that are fentanyl variations as they consider them as "no now accepted for medical use and a high potential for abuse". Rather than use one or two doses they're using 10 doses to try and save a patient's life.

"When you use an elephant tranquilizer on a human, bad things are going to happen", Slovis said, according to ABC.

Shelly Prasad Chawla contributed to this article.

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