According to the
U.N.'s World Drug Report 2016, the number of heroin users in the
United States reached around one million in 2014, almost three
times as many as in 2003. Heroin-related deaths there have
increased five-fold since 2000.
"There is really a huge epidemic (of) heroin in the U.S.," said
Angela Me, the chief researcher for the report which was
released on Thursday.
"It is the highest definitely in the last 20 years," Me said,
adding that the trend was continuing.
The rise could be linked to U.S. legislation introduced in
recent years which makes it harder to abuse prescription opioids
such as oxicodone, a powerful painkiller that can have similar
effects to heroin, Me said.
The law meant the texture of the pills was changed to make it
more difficult to crush them and inject them into the blood
stream, Me said.
"This has caused a partial shift from the misuse of these
prescription opioids to heroin."
Another reason for the increase in the use of heroin, which in
the United States mainly comes from Mexico and Colombia, is
greater supply that has depressed prices in recent years, Me
The United States has also seen a spike in deaths related to
fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and
100 times more so than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fentanyl has been named as the drug that killed pop singer
Prince this year.
At least 207,000 deaths globally were drug-related in 2014, with
heroin use and overdose-related deaths increasing sharply also
over the last two years, according to the Vienna-based U.N.
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
"Heroin continues to be the drug that kills the most people and
this resurgence must be addressed urgently," Yury Fedotov, the
executive director of the UNODC, said.
U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year asked Congress for
$1.1 billion in new funding over two years to expand treatment
for users of heroin and prescription painkillers.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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