Heroin Addiction Statistics

Heroin is a dangerous, addictive, and illegal opioid drug made from morphine. Opioids are a class of drugs developed from the poppy seed. Many of the most common opioid drugs are actually prescription pain medications that are safe to use as directed by a doctor.

Heroin Abuse Statistics

Most heroin users misused prescription opioids before escalating to heroin use.

Heroin Statistics in 2019:

  • 745,000 Americans reported using heroin
  • 50,000 used heroin for the first time
  • 14,480 died of an overdose involving heroin

The Dangers of Heroin Abuse by the Numbers

Heroin is highly addictive and users often develop a tolerance for the drug, causing them to use it more and more. This snowball effect raises heroin users’ risk of harmful health effects and potential death.

Heroin use is involved in a significant portion of drug overdose deaths, has very dangerous effects on the human body, and is often correlated to other drug use.

Heroin Overdose Statistics

The most dangerous effect of using heroin is the risk of overdose. Heroin overdoses often result in death.

  • Heroin was involved in 19.8% of drug overdose deaths in 2019.
  • More than 14,000 people died of heroin-related overdoses in 2019.
  • Nearly 130,000 people died of overdoses related to heroin from 1999 to 2019.
  • The number of heroin-involved overdose deaths was more than 7 times higher in 2019 than in 1999.

The good news is that from 2018 to 2019, heroin-involved overdose deaths decreased by 6%.

Hopefully, this new downward trend will continue as people get the information and help they need.

Negative Health Effects of Heroin Use

Heroin is usually injected but can also be smoked or snorted. Each of these methods can cause different negative effects. The injection can cause collapsed veins while snorting can damage nasal tissues. Heroin in all forms and taken by all methods have damaging health effects.

Dangerous long term heroin use side effects include:

  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Pneumonia and other lung issues
  • Mental disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Abscesses
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves

One of the most serious dangers of heroin injection is the risk of transmitting viral infections by sharing needles with other users. Heroin users are at high risk of developing HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and certain bacterial infections.

1 in 10 HIV diagnoses occurs among people who inject drugs.

How Heroin Correlates with Other Drug Use

Heroin is dangerous on its own but it is also correlated with many other dangerous drug habits. Most heroin users transitioned from using prescription drugs. Most heroin users are also likely to have other drug habits.

Here are some key statistics about the relationship of heroin use with other substance abuse issues:

  • About 4 to 6 percent of people who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin use.
  • An estimated 80 percent of heroin users transitioned from misusing prescription opioids.
  • According to data from 2011-2013, nearly all heroin users also used at least one other drug, and most used at least 3 other drugs.

People who have developed an addiction to other substances are more likely to use heroin:

  • People who are addicted to alcohol are 2x more likely to use heroin
  • People who are addicted to marijuana are 3x more likely to use heroin
  • People who are addicted to cocaine are 15x more likely to use heroin
  • People who are addicted to prescription opioids are 40x more likely to use heroin

Heroin Addiction Statistics by Race

Opioid overdose deaths in 2019 were

  • 72% White non-Hispanic
  • 15% Black non-Hispanic
  • 11% Hispanic
  • 2% other races

Below are some 2019 heroin use statistics separated by race:

African American Heroin Addiction

  • 93,000 used heroin
  • 38,000 had a heroin use disorder
  • Data unavailable for first-time users

Hispanic Americans Heroin Addiction

  • 48,000 used heroin
  • 42,000 had a heroin use disorder
  • 4,000 used heroin for the first time

Asian Americans Heroin Addiction

  • 7,000 used heroin
  • No data for heroin use disorders
  • 7,000 used heroin for the first time

American Indian Heroin Addiction

  • 3,000 used heroin
  • 1,000 had a heroin use disorder
  • 1,000 used heroin for the first time

How Heroin Affects Young People

Heroin use has been on a decline in middle and high schoolers but on an incline in young adults. In recent years, the greatest increase in heroin use has been in young adults aged 18-25.

In 2020, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders had the lowest recorded heroin use rates since 1991. Less than 1% of these students reported having ever used heroin.

Drug Time Period 8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Heroin Lifetime 0.5% 0.3% 0.4%
Heroin Past Year 0.2% 0.2% 0.3%

Heroin Statistics in Women vs. Men

From 2011 to 2013, 3.6% of men and 1.6% of women were using heroin. Heroin use affects men and women differently. Although men are more likely to use heroin, women are subject to different risks.

In 2019:

  • 231,000 women used heroin
  • 189,000 developed heroin use disorder
  • 13,000 used heroin for the first time

Female heroin users risk damaging their own health as well as their potential childrens’ health if they use heroin while pregnant. Heroin can pass through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy. When this happens, babies can be born dependent on heroin and begin to have withdrawal symptoms once they are born. This type of withdrawal in infants is called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Opioid use disorder statistics show that opioid addiction has quadrupled among pregnant women in recent years. As opioid use goes up among pregnant women, so do cases of NAS in newborns.

  • Approximately one baby is diagnosed with NAS every 19 minutes in the U.S.
  • Cases of NAS went up by 82% from 2010 to 2017.
  • 4 times as many newborns were born with NAS in 2014 than in 1999.

In 2016, 20% of HIV cases in men and 21% in women were attributed to injection drug use, including heroin use. Unfortunately, women risk passing HIV to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Heroin Statistics in the LGBTQ+ Community

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans are at higher risk of developing an opioid misuse disorder. Links to drug use and the LGBTQ+ community are likely the result of experiencing discrimination, violence, and trauma due to their sexual minority status.

Data from 2015-2017 showed that compared to heterosexual people of the same gender:

  • Bisexual women had 4 times the odds of injection heroin use
  • Lesbian and bisexual women and gay men were 1.4-2.4 times more likely to have misused opioids in the past year
  • Bisexual women were 2.4 times more likely to have an opioid use disorder

In 2019:

  • 141,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans used heroin
  • 90,000 had a heroin use disorder
  • 31,000 used heroin for the first time

Heroin Treatment Types and How to Get Help

Heroin use disorder is treatable. Help is available through inpatient and outpatient programs around the country. There are effective medications and behavioral therapies to help people stop heroin use. Treatment plans differ for each patient because each patient is unique.

Here are some promising statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

  • 1.27 million Americans are receiving medication-assisted treatment
  • There are over 14,000 substance abuse facilities in the U.S.
  • Drug overdose deaths went down 4.1% from 2017-2018
  • There was a 142% increase in patients receiving medication-assisted treatment from 2016 to 2018

Heroin addiction treatments become more and more available every day. If you or someone you know is using heroin, do not hesitate to find an addiction center that can help.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

13 references
  1. NIDA. 2021, August 3. Overview. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/overview

  2. Heroin Overdose Data | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/deaths/heroin/index.html

  3. Opioid Crisis Statistics | Hhs.gov. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html

  4. Results From the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Graphics From the Key Findings Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRBriefSlides082120.pdf

  5. Us Opioid Crisis: Addressing Maternal and Infant Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/opioid-use-disorder-pregnancy/pdf/MMWR-Opioids-Use-Disorder-Pregnancy-Infographic-h.pdf

  6. Data and Statistics About Opioid Use During Pregnancy. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/opioids/data.html

  7. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Women. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31102/2019NSDUH-Women/Women%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  8. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: African Americans. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31099/2019NSDUH-AA/AfricanAmerican%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  9. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Hispanics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31101/2019NSDUH-Hispanic/Hispanic%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  10. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual (LGB) Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31104/2019NSDUH-LGB/LGB%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  11. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Asian/Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31100/2019NSDUH-NHOPI/Asian_NHOPI.pdf

  12. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31098/2019NSDUH-AIAN/AIAN%202019%20NSDUH.pdf

  13. Today’s Heroin Epidemic | Vitalsigns | CDC. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html

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