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90% Of First Time Heroin Drug Users Are White

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heroin drug usersHeroin related deaths grew 39 percent from 2012 to 2013 and the rate of heroin ­related overdose deaths for that same year quadrupled. This epidemic continues to grow as the years go on. Now researchers are taking a deeper look into the statistics behind heroin abuse.

Heroin Drug Users

In the 1980s, first time heroin drug users saw no race distinction. The use of this drug has expanded across the entire country over the last 30 years, and researchers have found that 90% of first ­time heroin users are white, with a majority being middle class and wealthy.

The correlation between prescription pain medication (opioids) and the use of heroin is truly astounding. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45 percent of heroin drug users between 2011 and 2013 were also addicted to prescription pills. Seventy­ five percent of heroin addicts started out by using prescription drugs, a fact that supports evidence that today’s heroin users are moving from pills to heroin itself. Also according to the CDC, people dependent on pills are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin.

Between 1997 and 2011, the number of people who sought treatment for opioid addiction increased by 900 percent. Painkillers like OxyContin came on the market in 1996 and were the cause of 75 percent of drug overdose deaths in that period. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating the pills in 2013, their street value went up. Those who were already addicted the pills began turning to heroin, a cheaper and potent alternative.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House, suggests that underlying racism by doctors might be the reason that heroin usage has swayed more to the whites. He cites a study that looked for trends in prescriptions (through Medicare) in 2007 to 2012 and found that white patients were being prescribed pills at a higher rate than any other race. Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic, doesn’t believe this to be true. “There’s an awful lot of doctors out there,” he said. “I can’t imagine that every single one has  that feeling.” Those who support Quinones showcase data that looks at health insurance  access, which makes whites more likely than blacks to visit a doctor, and therefore more likely to end up with a prescription.

Access is another point to consider. Heroin dealers in whiter communities have an advantage over the urban communities because they are less likely to get shut down by cops. Meaning, cops wouldn’t suspect that drug dealing is happening in middle class communities.

No matter your race, religion, or color, addiction does not discriminate. If you or someone you know is suffering, call The Watershed today. We’re available 24/7: 1­-800-­861-­1768.

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