The sharp increase in heroin deaths coincided with curbs on abuse of opioid analgesics established about the same time. Authorities have tried to crack down on pill mills and required reformulation of the prescription medications to make them more difficult to use recreationally. The cheaper price of heroin also increased its popularity.
The death rate from opioids such as OxyContin, Demerol and Vicodin declined slightly, from 5.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 people between 2010 and 2013.
The sobering numbers are no surprise to anyone who has been following news reports of heroin's popularity and the drug's toll. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose 13 months ago, putting a spotlight on the issue.
White males between the ages of 18 and 44 became by far the biggest demographic group involved in heroin overdose deaths over the 13 years examined by the study. Their rate of 7 per 100,000 surpassed the 5 per 100,000 rate for black men, who in 2000 were the most frequent victims of the drug. The death rate for men was nearly four times as high as it was for women.
The Midwest also passed the Northeast and the West as the region with the highest death rate.