It looks like our nation has found a “bullet” deadlier than the traditional calibers. As of 2015, heroin is killing more people than guns.
This shift in statistics has happened rather quickly. In 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths 5 to 1. By last year, heroin deaths crept past gun homicide numbers. In 2015, there were 12,979 gun homicides and 12,989 heroin deaths.
Heroin has also surpassed its cousin opiates – traditional opioid painkillers. For the first time in decades, there were more deaths due to heroin than painkillers like hydrocodone and OxyContin.
Why’s Heroin So Popular?
According to the CDC, 2015 saw more than 30,000 opioid deaths. It was the first year in which opioid death tolls surpassed the 30,000 mark.
The increase in heroin use can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. The era saw a drastic increase in prescription painkiller use, while an alarming number of Americans developed dependencies on the drugs.
To combat the upward trend, state and federal laws of the late 2000s focused in on tighter restrictions for all opioid painkillers. But those restrictions had unintended and devastating consequences.
As addicted Americans continued in desperation to feed their ever-growing opioid dependencies, traditional doors of opportunity were shut. In the end, many people turned to a cheaper, more easily accessible option – heroin.
Response From the Top
These alarming statistics haven’t gone unnoticed in Washington. Congress recently passed the 21st Century Cures Act. It is expected to be signed into effect by President Obama before the end of his term. The bill, with a total sticker price of $6.3 billion, includes $1 billion in funding to fight the opioid epidemic. Over the next two years, the funds will be used for opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, while another $4.8 billion is slotted to cover research on a variety of illnesses and diseases over the next decade.
Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, noted in a statement, “The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country—in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment. That is why the President has called since February for $1 billion in new funding to expand access to treatment.”
The bill has not been without controversy, however, with naysayers claiming it is too “pro-pharmaceutical.” They argue Big Pharma is the real winner in this bill, rather than those suffering from opioid addiction.
Will new funding be able to turn the tide in the heroin crisis? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Additional Reading: Prescription Opiates – As Addictive as Heroin?
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