Prescription Opioids and Heroin Research Report
Increased drug availability is associated with increased use and overdose

From 1991 to 2012, opioid prescriptions dispensed by U.S. pharmacies more than tripled from 76 million to 255 million prescriptions. In parallel with this increase, opioid-involved overdose deaths more than quadrupled over the same period. Since then, opioid prescriptions have declined to nearly 143 million in 2020.1

Mexican heroin production increased from an estimated 8 metric tons in 2005 to 50 metric tons in 2009—more than a six-fold increase in just 4 years. Domination of the U.S. market by Mexican and Colombian heroin sources, along with technology transfer between these suppliers, has increased the availability of easily injectable, white powder heroin.2 In a recent survey of patients receiving treatment for opioid abuse, accessibility was one of the main factors identified in the decision to start using heroin.3


  1. CDC WONDER. Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Health Statistics. Released December 2021. Accessed January 2022.
  2. National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Justice. National Drug Threat Assessment 2011. Published August 2011. Accessed October 8, 2015.
  3. Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The changing face of heroin use in the United States: a retrospective analysis of the past 50 years. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):821-826.