Drug is killing far more people than heroin

The most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers — like oxycodone and hydrocodone — were involved in more overdose deaths than any other type of the drug. Those deaths rose by 9%.

“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a press release.

According to the report, two main shifts are driving the tragic trend:

  • More Americans are using opiate painkillers: Research suggests that one of the reasons that abusing opiates can make people more susceptible to future heroin abuse is because the drugs act similarly in the brain. A report released in July found that people who abused opiate painkillers were 40 times as likely to abuse heroin.
  • Inexpensive heroin has become more widely available: Heroin costs about one-fifth as much as most prescription opioids.

In recent surveys, nearly three in every 1,000 Americans said they used heroin in the previous year. That’s up from under two per 1,000 about a decade ago, a 62% increase that translates to hundreds of thousands more people.