CDC: U.S. Heroin Deaths Nearly Tripled in 3 Years; WH: Mexico ‘Primary Supplier’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | April 8, 2015 | 4:30pm EDT

A fence along the U.S.-Mexico border near San Miguel, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

( - The number and rate of deaths in the United States from overdoses involving heroin nearly tripled in the three years from 2010 to 2013, the last year on record, according to a "Data Brief" published in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All of the heroin in the United States is smuggled from abroad and Mexico is the "primary supplier" of that drug to this country, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“From 2010 through 2013, the age-adjusted rate for heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths nearly tripled from 1.0 per 100,000 in 2010 to 2.7 per 100,000 in 2013,” said the CDC data brief.

The overall number of overdose deaths involving heroin increased from 3,036 in 2010 to 8,257 in 2013, according to the CDC.

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“Foreign sources of opium are responsible for the entire supply of heroin consumed in the U.S.,” says the White House webpage on “The International Heroin Market.”

“Poppy cultivation and heroin production have been decreasing steadily in Colombia since 2001, when cultivation reached a peak of 6,540 hectares,” says the White House. “In contrast, opium poppy cultivation in Mexico remains high, and Mexico continues as the primary supplier of heroin to the United States. Estimated cultivation of opium poppy reached 10,500 hectares in 2012, with an estimated pure potential production of 26 metric tons.”

The CDC brief pointed to what it called a “steady increase” in recent years in U.S. “poisoning” deaths involving heroin.

“Drug poisoning (overdose) is the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States, with 43,982 deaths occurring in 2013,” said the report. “While much attention has been given to deaths involving opioid analgesics, in recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin.”

“While the age-adjusted rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics has leveled in recent years, the rate for deaths involving heroin has almost tripled since 2010,” said the report.

According to the CDC, opioid analgesics include, for example, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone.

“Age-adjusted death rates are constructs that show what the level of mortality would be if no changes occurred in the age composition of the population from year to year,” says the CDC. “Thus, age-adjusted death rates are better indicators than unadjusted (crude) death rates for examining changes in the risk of death over a period of time when the age distribution of the population is changing.”

From 2000 through 2007, the age-adjusted death rate for overdoses involving heroin hovered between 0.6 deaths per 100,000 and 0.8 deaths per 100,000. By 2013, it had climbed to 2.7 per 100,000.

“From 2000 through 2013, the age-adjusted rate for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2013,” said the CDC report. “Most of the increase occurred after 2010.”

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The Midwest has overtaken the Northeast and West as the region of the country most likely to see heroin overdoses. In 2000, the Northeast and West had the highest age-adjusted heroin overdose death rates, at 0.9 per 100,000. That year the rate was 0.5 per 100,000 in the South and 0.4 per 100,000 in the Midwest.

In 2013, the Midwest had the highest heroin overdose death rate, at 4.3 per 100,000. That year, the Northeast had a heroin overdose death rate of 3.9 per 100,000, the West had a rate of 1.8 per 100,000 and the South had a rate of 1.7 per 100,000.

Although men are more likely than women to die from an overdose involving heroin, the rate of increase in heroin-related deaths among women has been steeper than among men. In 2000, 279 women died from an overdose involving heroin, for a death rate of 0.2 per 100,000. In 2013, 1,732 women died from an overdose involving heroin for a death rate of 1.2 per 100,000. In thirteen years, the heroin-related deaths and death rate for U.S. women increased six-fold.

Men saw an approximately four-fold increases in their heroin-related deaths and death rates. In 2000, 1,563 men in the United States died from overdoses involving heroin for a rate of 1.1 per 100,000. In 2013, 6,525 men died from overdoses involving heroin for a death rate of 4.2 per 100,000.

“Each year a small subset of drug-poisoning deaths involved both opioid analgesics and heroin,” said the CDC report. “For example, in 2013, 1,342 deaths involved both opioid analgesics and heroin. Deaths involving both opioid analgesics and heroin are included in both the rate of deaths involving opioid analgesics and the rate of deaths involving heroin. Depending on the year, 22 percent to 25 percent of drug-poisoning deaths lack information on the specific drugs involved. Some of these deaths may involve opioid analgesics or heroin.”

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