Heroin deaths are sharply climbing in communities across North Carolina, which have experienced a nearly 900 percent increase in fatal heroin overdoses since 2010.
Authorities in the state say heroin use is more prevalent than people may realize, and it’s rooted in dependence on opiate-based painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Opioids have long been an issue in the state, claiming 603 lives in North Carolina in 2010, although heroin use is not historically a major problem. There were 16 times as many opioid deaths as heroin in 2010, which claimed 37 lives, reports The Mountaineer.
Heroin deaths increased by 884 percent between 2010 and 2015 in North Carolina, causing 364 fatalities.
“Heroin is cheaper than these pills are,” Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher told The Mountaineer. “They’re paying between $100 and $200 per day on their habit, and they realize that whoever they’re buying the pills from, they can also get heroin for a fraction of the cost.”
Prescription opioids are still wreaking havoc in the state, but the death rate is now only double that of heroin. Painkillers claimed 738 lives in 2015 across the state.
Addiction experts blame much of the explosion of heroin use since 2010 on the over-prescribing of pain medications for more than a decade. Officials with the DEA say four out of five heroin addicts started with painkillers.
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years nationally, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.
Authors of the study noted in 2010 only 8 percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin.
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