Heroin was once the scourge of the urban poor, but today the typical user is a young white suburbanite, finds a study reported by NPR. The path to addiction usually starts with prescription painkillers. A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the U.S. found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. The average age was 23. Three-quarters said that they first started not with heroin but with abusing prescription opioids like OxyContin.
In contrast, when heroin first became popular in the ’60s and ’70s, most users were young minority men who lived in cities. “Heroin is not an inner-city problem anymore,” says Dr. Theodore Cicero, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who led the study. The study, published yesterday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, squares with earlier findings that heroin abuse is growing and spreading beyond urban centers.