Why is heroin abuse rising while other types of drug abuse are falling? Forbes contributor David DiSalvo asks the question, prompted by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s new focus on Vermont’s heroin abuse epidemic. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that in the last decade, heroin abuse has increased from 90,000 to 156,000 new users a year. Meanwhile, the number of new meth users has decreased in the last decade, along with cocaine abuse and crack abuse.
The abuse of non-medical prescription pain killers has also gone down, from 2.2 million new non-medical users in 2002 to 1.9 million in 2012. According to DiSalvo, “The reason may come down to basic economics: illegally obtained prescription pain killers have become more expensive and harder to get, while the price and difficulty in obtaining heroin have decreased. … Heroin is effectively filling fissures in demand opened by legal pressures and cost.”
It’s possible to conclude that prescription opiates are a “gateway drug” for heroin use, DiSalvo says. The trends suggest that more affluent areas of the country, like Vermont, will see a rise in this type of drug abuse.
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