As Demographics Of Heroin Abuse Change, So Do State Efforts To Combat It


In the past decade, heroin abuse has exploded, and it is hitting white people in suburbs and rural areas particularly hard, says Stateline. As the demographics of heroin use have changed, so have states' efforts to combat it. “People have recognized that (heroin addiction) is a problem facing folks they know as well as groups that are distant from them. That certainly affects the way you view the problem,” said Kurt Schmoke, who as Baltimore mayor from 1987 to 1999 was criticized for his efforts to decriminalize drug use. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia now have laws designed to make naloxone, a heroin antidote that is 99 percent effective, more easily accessible to overdose victims, according to the Network for Public Health Law.

“In some states, now that budgets are generally looking better, states are looking at this as a different problem than in the previous decade,” said Karmen Hanson of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “It's a not just an urban problem; it's a rural problem. It's not just under the viaduct in the big cities. It's also a suburban problem. It's widespread culturally and ethnographically.” Between 2006 and 2013, the number of first time heroin users nearly doubled, from 90,000 to 169,000, says the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Ninety percent of the people who tried the drug for the first time in the past decade are white, compared to an equal number of white and nonwhite users who got their start before the 1980s, said a study last year in JAMA Psychiatry.

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