The Rapidly Rising Death Toll of the Heroin Epidemic

The Rapidly Rising Death Toll of the Heroin Epidemic

REUTERS/Fresno Police Department/Handout via Reuters
By Millie Dent

The death toll from the heroin epidemic has been climbing dramatically in recent years — and the annual rate of overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013, according to a new CDC study.

From 2002 through 2013, heroin use in the United States rose by 63 percent, and the rate of abuse or dependence climbed a staggering 90 percent. Deaths from heroin-related overdoses nearly quadrupled, with more than 8,200 people dying in 2013 alone.

The CDC report says that heroin use has increased across most demographic groups — men and women, most age groups, and across all income levels. Rates of heroin use are still highest among men, those ages 18 to 25, people with income less than $20,000 a year, people in urban areas, and those who do not have health insurance or are on Medicaid. But other groups are turning to the drug, too. “Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured and people with higher incomes,” the CDC says.

The heroin trend isn’t happening in isolation, the CDC study says. Almost all heroin users — 96 percent — also took at least one other drug, and 61 percent used at least three other drugs. Abuse or dependence on opioid painkillers is the strongest risk-factor for heroin use or addiction, the report says, with cocaine addiction also high on the list. People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to use or be addicted to heroin, and 45 percent of people who used heroin were also addicted to painkillers.

Another key reason is that heroin is becoming cheaper and more widely available. According to the DEA, the increase in heroin seizures in the U.S. from 2010 and 2014 rose 81 percent, from 2,763 kilograms to 5,014 kilograms. More and more law enforcement agencies are identifying heroin as their primary drug threat, but the CDC report suggests that health care workers focus on reducing the abuse of painkillers by improving prescribing practices.

The study also recommends that states increase access to “medication-assisted treatment” programs that use methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone along with behavioral counseling. And it says the rapid rise in heroin-related deaths highlights an “urgent need” to broaden access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of heroin and opioid overdose.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”