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Heroin Abuse and Addiction

Statstics and heroin abuse

Heroin Statistics and Heroin Abuse

One of the weightiest issues facing the United States today is the widespread misuse and addiction to opioid drugs (like heroin and fentanyl) and other over-the-counter pain medicines. In the US, drug overdose is the top cause of unexpected death, and opioids are the most abused substance in overdose incidents. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the United States has lost almost as many people to the opioid epidemic as it did during World War II.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that heroin usage and overdose fatalities have risen considerably in the recent decade. The rising number of persons abusing prescription opioid pain medications like OxyContin and Percocet is to blame for this rise. Eighty percent of heroin addicts admit to using prescription drugs before switching to the drug. Statistics have shown that as many as 94% of opioid addicts who move from opioid medications to heroin do so because prescription opioids have become much more costly and challenging to obtain. Here are some alarming statistics concerning heroin use in the United States.

Statistics on Heroin

  • Many individuals begin using heroin to cope with depression, anxiety, and other forms of stress. According to one research, 75 percent of users reported mental health concerns such as attention deficit disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder.


  • In 2020, 0.3 percent of persons aged 12 and above (or roughly 902,000 Americans) said they had used heroin in the previous 12 months.


  • In 2021, 0.2 percent of eighth-graders, 0.1 percent of tenth graders, and 0.1 percent of twelfth graders reported taking heroin in the previous 12 months.


  • In 2020, approximately 0.2 percent of persons aged 12 and older (or roughly 691,000 of the population) had a HUD (heroin use disorder) in the previous year.


  • In 2020, around 13,165 individuals died due to a heroin overdose.


  • Using synthetic opioid medications other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) contributed to more than 68% of heroin-related overdose fatalities.


For many years, the number of people dying from heroin overdoses has increased steadily. It's worth noting, however, that taking opioids - whether prescription drugs or heroin – can make you develop an addiction.

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Heroin and Your Brain

When heroin chemicals enter your brain, it binds to opioid receptors. These receptors may be found in various parts of the brain and body, including locations in pleasure and pain perception and a section of the brain that controls respiration.


Two of heroin's immediate side effects include a spike in euphoric feelings and fuzziness of thought. After taking the drug, you begin to feel drowsy, and your heart and respiratory rates start to slow down. These sensations might last for a long time. When the effects of the drug wear off, you may feel depressed. At this point, you'll begin to want the substance to recapture the positive sensations you had before using it.


The brain's function is altered when heroin is used regularly. Repeated use of heroin may lead to:


Tolerance: The need for ever-greater dosages to attain the same intensity or effect as when the user started using the drug.


Dependence: The need to keep taking the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. When heroin users depend on it, the drug no longer produces pleasurable experiences. Instead, some people need to keep taking the substance to feel normal.

Addiction: A person who is addicted desires the substance merely to feel "normal."

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

Heroin stats

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Heroin and your brain

Addiction to Heroin

Addiction to heroin

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly one out of every four persons who take heroin will develop an addiction. People who use heroin argue that it makes them feel comfortable, relaxed, detached, and less anxious. As a potent sedative, heroin also has analgesic properties, easing physical and mental aches and pains.


Contingent on the quantity and method of administration, the effects of this drug can appear fast and linger for several hours. As soon as it is injected or smoked, it causes an immediate rush of euphoria and induces an altered state of consciousness.


Bloating, nausea, and respiratory distress are all side effects of heroin usage, in addition to the pain alleviation and sedation it provides. Use for an extended period can cause physical dependence and, thus, addiction.

Addicts who smoke or snort heroin often proceed to inject it. Injections are a more efficient form of administering the substance but are also riskier. Many people turn to injections to achieve the stronger sensations they experienced when they first started taking the drug. They may not understand that heroin can set a dangerous and fatal use pattern in motion.

What are the Risks?

Risks of heroin abuse

Heroin overdose is a problem for both fresher and old users because it is generally not easy to determine the purity of the heroin they are consuming. Sugar, starch, or quinine are common ingredients in heroin sold on the street.


There is an additional risk when heroin is coupled with substances like strychnine.) Slowed and shallow breathing, seizures, coma, and sometimes even death are symptoms of an overdose of heroin. All these can occur whether the substance is smoked, snorted, or injected.


It is possible for those who have become addicted to heroin to suffer from various withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it.


According to the NIDA, heroin abuse can trigger a series of complications. Many of the chemicals in street heroin may be difficult to dissolve, resulting in obstruction of blood arteries leading to the liver, lungs, kidneys, or brain. Scarred or ruptured blood vessels, pathogenic microorganisms of the veins and arteries and heart valves, boils, and other soft-tissue infections are all medical repercussions of prolonged injection usage.


It might cause infection or even death in small patches of tissues and cells in vital organs. These contaminants may trigger an immune response that causes rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.


The transmission of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne infections may occur if intravenous equipment or fluids are shared. Furthermore, a drug user's sexual partner and children risk contracting the disease.

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The Bottom Line

Bottom line

Heroin users may not appear to be under the influence of the substance. They might be drowsy. If you're a drug user, you're virtually certainly going to deny that you're using.


Take action if you suspect that a friend or family member is abusing heroin, and don't wait for things to get better before you do so. Do something now. A person's chances of recovery improve dramatically if they receive assistance as soon as possible. Seek help from a professional!

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