Deaths caused by heroin overdoses in the United States quadrupled between 2010 and 2015, according to a new report.
The National Center for Health Statistics says there were 12,989 overdose deaths involving heroin in 2015. In 2010, the number was 3,036. In percentages, heroin caused 8 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2010, and now it accounts for 25 percent.
The center cites dropping prices and increasing potency for the rise in deaths.
Furthermore, experts say they believe the opioid epidemic caused by prescription painkillers may also be driving people to use heroin as the drug is usually much cheaper.
“You are 40 times more likely to use heroin if you started with opioid painkillers,” Rich Hamburg, the executive vice president for the non-profit Trust for America’s Health, told the Reuters news agency. “Heroin is part of America’s larger drug abuse problem.”
Death from overdosing on prescription painkillers like oxycodone actually fell over the period of the study, dropping from 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015.
Overdoses deaths from cocaine also fell, albeit slightly, the study said.
The states with the highest rates of overdose deaths in 2015 were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio, the study found.
Overdose deaths increased for all age groups, but rose the most among those 55 to 64, the study said.