The government's substance abuse survey found that from 2007 to 2012, the number of heroin users in the U.S. rose from 373,000 to 669,000. In 2010, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths in the U.S., a 102% increase since 1999. The cause is not far to seek:
Public health professionals have known for nearly a decade that a new cohort of heroin users was in the making as the prescription drug epidemic spread. This is a matter of pure economics. Prescription dope isn’t cheap. In Philadelphia, an 80 milligram OxyContin pill will cost you $40. "Oxys" are safe in that the potency is predictable. Pills usually trade in safer parts of town than the North Philadelphia heroin corners where bullets can fly at any moment and the Narc Squad is always on the prowl. You pay a premium for upscale product, though; for the same amount of money, you could get four bags of heroin that are just as potent. Eventually, heavy users run out of money for pills and seek out cheaper powders.Actually you can get heroin in New York right now for $6 a bag. Plus there have been some modest efforts to crack down on the illegal OxyContin trade, such as identifying and cutting off doctors whose practices have become pill mills, and this has hurt the supply a little. So addicts are moving on to heroin by the hundreds of thousands.