Death from drug overdose in the United States has increased 250 percent since the start of the millennium, according to the National Centers for Health Statistics.
Adults between the ages of 45 and 54 had the highest rates of overdose deaths in 2015, and the rates are increasing among non-Hispanic white people, almost 3.5 times the rate in 1999, according to the CDC. While all age groups saw increases in death, the 55-to-64 group saw the biggest increase, with a five-fold jump since 1999.
"Past misuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for heroin initiation and use -especially among people who became dependent upon or abused prescription opioids in the past year (2014)", the CDC's 2015 report said. Also, previous research found the release of abuse-deterrent OxyContin correlates to the rising trend of heroin abuse.
"This suggests that there is greater supply of synthetic opioids in certain areas and because they are more lethal than heroin or prescription opioids, they are contributing to the increases in overdose death rates", Vuolo said.
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The NCHS report relied on mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System and did not examine underlying cause of deaths.
The overdose rates in several age groups from 25 to 64-years-olds were more than twice that for younger adults in the 15 to 24 year old range.
The overall number of deaths from opioid overdoses quadrupled during the same period, according to ABC. There are also increases in deaths from cocaine and methamphetamines. Those numbers were higher for non-Hispanic white people, whose overdose rate increased at a seven percent average each year.
In 2015, the rate for whites was almost three times higher than that among Hispanics and almost double the rate for blacks, USA Today said.
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While heroin was responsible for just 8 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2010, it accounted for 25 percent of such deaths in 2015.
But the success of those efforts prompted prescription drug addicts to switch to heroin, which is cheaper and more available on the street, Salsitz and Vuolo said.
For example, while fatal overdoses involving so-called "natural", "semi-synthetic", and "synthetic" opioids (morphine, oxycodone, methadone) all fell between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of fatal overdoses involving heroin tripled.
"You are 40 times more likely to use heroin if you stated with opioid painkillers", Hamburg said.
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