By Ed Coghlan
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has called the use of heroin and other opioid drugs an “expanding health crisis.” The DEA released its 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary on Tuesday (June 28).
The DEA called out three data points in its press release:
- The number of people reporting current heroin use nearly tripled between 2007 (161,000) and 2014 (435,000).
- Deaths due to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and its analogues, increased 79 percent from 2013 to 2014.
- Deaths involving heroin more than tripled between 2010 (3,036) and 2014 (10,574) – a rate faster than other illicit drugs.
“We tend to overuse words such as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘horrific,’ but the death and destruction connected to heroin and opioids is indeed unprecedented and horrific,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. “The problem is enormous and growing, and all of our citizens need to wake up to these facts.”
The DEA stated: “Many users of Controlled Prescription Drugs (CPDs) become addicted to opioid medications originally prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose. The reasons individuals shift from one opiate to another vary, but today’s heroin is higher in purity, less expensive, and can be easier to obtain than illegal CPDs”.
New to this year’s summary is information on a recent phenomenon—fentanyl disguised as prescription pills—something allegedly responsible for the death of 19 people in Florida and California during the first quarter of 2016.
The number of users, treatment admissions, overdose deaths, and seizures from traffickers all increased over those reported in last year’s summary. In addition, heroin was the greatest drug threat reported by 45 percent (up from 38% last year and 7% in 2007) of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies responding to the 2016 National Drug Threat Survey, an annual survey of a representative national sample of 2,761 agencies.
The agency said the heroin threat is particularly high in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest areas of the United States, law enforcement agencies in cities across the country report seizing larger than usual quantities of heroin.
The DEA said that National Seizure System data show an 80 percent increase in heroin seizures in the past five years, from 3,733 kilograms in 2011 to 6,722 kilograms in 2015.