A new study finds heroin use in the United States has risen fivefold in the past decade, with the biggest rise seen among whites and men with low incomes and education levels.
Dependence on heroin use more than tripled during the last 10 years, Reuters reports. The biggest increase was seen among whites ages 18 to 44, researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry.
The increase has been fueled partly by the misuse of opioid prescription drugs, the study concluded.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that in 2001-2002, 36 percent of whites using heroin had taken prescription opioids non-medically before they started using heroin, compared to 53 percent in 2012-2013.
“Because the effects of heroin seem so similar to widely available prescription opioids, heroin use appears to have become more socially acceptable among suburban and rural whites,” lead researcher Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, said in a news release.