Heroin Use is Increasing Among Whites Who Abuse Opioid Pain Medications

heroin use is increasing among whites who engage in prescription abuse

Over the last few years the rate of heroin use has jumped among individuals who abuse opioid pain medications, and the biggest increase was seen with the Caucasian population. A new study that was performed by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health showed that heroin use among whites jumped by approximately 75% in the three year period between 2008 and 2011. Compared to previous years this increase is enormous and a cause for significant alarm. The statistics cover the non medical use of opioid drugs. This is classified as using the prescription medication for the feelings and sensations provided. The individuals involved in the study used opioid drugs that were not prescribed to them. The researchers examined the frequency of the prescription drug abuse and the risk of behaviors related to heroin use. What they found was that heroin abuse increased the most in the Hispanic and non Hispanic white populations during this period.

The painkiller abuse and heroin use studied was led by Mailman School of Public Health associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Silvia Martins, M.D., Ph.D. According to Martins “The individuals tend to use prescription opioids as a substitute for heroin when heroin is unavailable, to augment a heroin-induced ‘high,’ to ‘treat’ withdrawal symptoms, and to curb heroin use. This is alarming and raises concern since injection drug use among prescription opioid users can contribute to the spread of HIV, as recently reported in Southern Indiana, as well as of Hepatitis C.” Martins went on to say “The noteworthy increase in the annual rate of heroin abuse or dependence among non-Hispanic whites parallels the significant increase in nonmedical opioid use during the last decade and the growing number of heroin overdose deaths described for this race and ethnic group in recent years. Overall, our results suggest a connection between opioid and heroin use and heroin-related adverse outcomes at the population level, implying that frequent nonmedical users of prescription opioids, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be the focus of public health efforts to prevent and mitigate the harms of heroin use.”

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