Heroin use is exploding, especially among women and people with higher incomes, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, most heroin users are young white men with low incomes. Since 2002, heroin overdose deaths quadrupled to 8,200. More than half a million Americans abused heroin in 2013, the report said.
Heroin is usually taken intravenously but is increasingly being snorted or smoked.
“Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin,” said Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement.
Many people turn to heroin to satisfy an addiction to prescription opiates like Oxycontin. Frieden said doctors should reform their prescribing practices to prevent that initial addiction as well as expand addiction treatment options.
In the meantime, authorities are trying to bust the suppliers.
“We will continue to target the criminal gangs that supply heroin, and we will work to educate folks about the dangers and to reduce demand,” DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement.
Authorities seized more than 4,800 pounds of heroin on the U.S. southwestern border in 2013.
Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.