People who use prescription pain medication non-medically are more likely to initiate heroin use. According to a report by SAMHSA, “people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers non-medically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use recently (within the past 12 months of being interviewed) than others in that age group (0.39 percent versus 0.02 percent).”
The plus side of the report indicated that although nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers are at a higher risk of later using heroin, only 3.6 percent of the people studied initiated heroin use within five years after the study.
The study was conducted as part of an ongoing effort to determine the factors that have lead to an increase in heroin use over recent years. SAMHSA reports, “last-year heroin initiation rates went up sharply in all regions of the nation during this period except the South where the rate stayed lowest in country. Heroin initiation rates were also lower among Blacks than among other racial and ethnic groups.” Nationwide, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months was 620,000 in 2011, a dramatic increase from 373,000 people in 2007.
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