The proportion of the population using heroin and having heroin use disorder increased over the decade from 2001 through 2013, with the greatest increases among whites, and nonmedical use of prescription opioids before heroin use increased among white users only, according to a new article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

Heroin use is a public health concern because the risks associated with it include addiction, death, infectious diseases and impaired psychological status.

Among the 79,402 survey respondents, the prevalence (proportion of the population affected) of heroin use increased from 0.33 percent in 2001-2002 to 1.61 percent in 2012-2013 and the prevalence of heroin use disorder increased from 0.21 percent to 0.69 percent, according to the results.

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The authors also note:

  • The increase in the prevalence of heroin use was higher among whites (0.34 percent in 2001-2002 vs. 1.90 percent in 2012-2013) compared with nonwhites (0.32 percent in 2001-2002 vs. 1.05 percent in 2012-2013).
  • The proportion of people who reported initiating the nonmedical use of prescription opioids before starting heroin use increased across time among white users only (from 35.83 percent in 2001-2002 to 52.83 percent in 2012-2013.

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