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
- 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.
- National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Justice. National Drug Threat Assessment 2011. http://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs44/44849/44849p.pdf. Published August 2011. Accessed October 8, 2015.
- 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.