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: Boosting Corporate Tax Revenues

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have all proposed increasing taxes on corporations, including raising income tax rates to levels ranging from 25% to 35%, up from the current 21% imposed by the Republican tax cuts in 2017. With Bernie Sanders leading the way at $3.9 trillion, here’s how much revenue the higher proposed corporate taxes, along with additional proposed surtaxes and reduced tax breaks, would generate over a decade, according to calculations by the right-leaning Tax Foundation, highlighted Wednesday by Bloomberg News.

Chart of the Day: Discretionary Spending Droops

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The federal government’s total non-defense discretionary spending – which covers everything from education and national parks to veterans’ medical care and low-income housing assistance – equals 3.2% of GDP in 2020, near historic lows going back to 1962, according to an analysis this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Chart of the Week: Trump Adds $4.7 Trillion in Debt

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.

Chart of the Day: The Long Decline in Interest Rates

Wall Street slips, Dow posts biggest weekly loss of 2013
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.

The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”

Chart of the Day: Drug Price Plans Compared

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.