Heroin use and heroin use disorder have increased significantly among American adults since 2001, according to new research conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The portion of Americans using heroin has climbed five-fold in the last decade, and clinically defined heroin dependence has more than tripled. Increases were greatest among males, whites, those with low income and little education, and for heroin use disorder, in younger individuals. The increase in the prevalence of heroin use disorder was more pronounced among whites ages 18-44 than among non-whites and older adults.
The study is the first to account for changes in heroin use and dependence over time in the U.S. The findings are published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
The study reports that heroin use increased from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013, from .33 percent to 1.60 percent, and heroin use disorder rose from 0.21 percent to .69 percent. Past-year prevalence of heroin use increased between 2001-2002 (0.03 percent) and 2012-2013 (0.21 percent). Heroin use was significantly pronounced among whites in 2012 to 2013: compared to non-whites, 1.9 percent versus and 1.1 percent, respectively. Heroin use and use disorder also increased more among the unmarried than married adults.