According to a recent report commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as many as 1.5 million Americans were chronic heroin users in 2010. Such statistics add further fuel to concerns about rising narcotics abuse and drug-related deaths.
Over the past five years alone, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent–an increase that officials blame on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium).
Prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths that year, and heroin was involved in about 3,000 deaths. (Meanwhile, cocaine use decreased by about 50 percent between 2002 and 2010.)
The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive than its prescription counterparts, and US officials now warn that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses. According to the US Justice Department, prescription opiates and heroin are two of the most lethal substances available.