According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2021:
- 1.1 million people aged 12 or older reported using heroin in the past 12 months
- 1.0 million people aged 12 or older had a heroin use disorder in the past 12 months
- Over 19% of all opioid deaths involved heroin
Heroin is an opioid that is listed as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has no medical value and has a high potential for abuse. There were 9,173 heroin-related deaths nationally in 2021, a steady decrease from the peak in 2017 at 15,482 deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and nearly 80% of people who use heroin reported first using prescription opioids.
Heroin is typically cheaper than prescription opioids, and some people begin using heroin when they can no longer access a prescription. Its temporary euphoric effects are stronger than those of prescription painkillers, but since it’s impossible to know the purity and strength of a batch of heroin, the risk of overdose is always high.