Heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels, according to a new report by the CDC.
The drug, which used to be predominantly used by males living in urban areas, is now seeing a large spike in women, young people and those with higher income levels.
The upward trend of heroin use continues in North Carolina as heroin deaths have increases from 38 in 2010 to 183 in 2013 in the state, a 480% increase.
Experts say a lot of people have turned to heroin because prescription opiod painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin are becoming more expensive and tougher to get. Heroin is a popular alternative that has essentially the same effect on the brain and costs about five times less on the street, said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
Gina Bussey, a Substance Abuse Clinician at the North Carolina Recovery Support Services, says she is seeing more demographically diverse clients. She’s especially noted an increase in women, people with high incomes, and high school/college-aged children.
“It’s tough to have to be the one to explain to the parents of these students that they have been injecting heroin,” said Bussey. “And the parents are stunned because there’s this belief that that’s a low socio-economic urban problem, but it’s not.”
The CDC is calling for a change in the way painkillers are prescribed and expanding access to substance abuse treatment facilities that can help reverse heroin overdose.
Chris Budnick, Vice President of Programs at the Healing Place of Wake County, says the key to addiction recovery is getting help early. He encourages the use of naloxone kits, or Overdose Rescue Kits, which attack the effects of an opiate drug overdose.
Naloxone stops the life-threatening suppression of the central nervous and respiratory system that comes from a heroin overdose, allowing the person to once again breathe normally.
In 2013, North Carolina passed a bill that increased the usage of Naloxone. First responders and many law enforcement agencies are equipped with the overdose rescue kits. Since the widespread implementation of Naloxone, 600 North Carolinians have been saved from drug overdoses, according to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.