The numbers are startling — in 2015, 52,404 people died from drug overdoses according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-three percent of those deaths involved an opioid.
More people die from drug overdoses than from guns or car accidents. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995, 43,115 people in the United States died from the disease.
Furthermore, since 1999, the number of overdoses from prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illicit drugs like heroin, have quadrupled. In fact, heroin now accounts for one in four overdose deaths in the United States.
Now, a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry looks beyond the total number of overdose deaths to get a better picture of how heroin use patterns have changed since 2001. Since then, the number of people who have used heroin has increased almost five-fold, and the number of people who abuse heroin has approximately tripled.