HEADLINES Published November7, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Heroin and Prescription Opioids Are Top U.S. Drug Threats

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A heroin user prepares to shoot up.
(Photo : Spencer Platt, Getty Images )

It is not breaking news, but, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) heroin and prescription pain pills are among the top drug threats as drugs of abuse in the country. The finding is part of the DEA's latest drug threat assessment report that was released this week.

"Sadly this report confirms what we've known for some time," said Chuck Rosenberg, the DEA's acting administrator, speaking to reporters.

The report states that the number of deaths attributable to controlled prescription drugs has outpaced those for cocaine and heroin combined. Some abusers of opioid prescription drug are moving on to using heroin, which contributes to the increased demand for heroin. This is why prescription opioid drugs and heroin are ranked by the report as the most significant drug threats to the United States.

The 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment found that heroin is most popular among drug users in the Northeast and Midwest, though availability of the drug has increased across the country and use rose by about 50 percent between 2013 and 2014.

There were more than 46,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2013, according to the report. About half of these deaths were due to abuse of prescription drugs and about 8,000 of them were due to heroin, Rosenberg said.

Seizures of heroin have nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 2,761 kilos seized to 5,013 kilos seized. Rosenberg said the U.S. heroin market is supplied largely by powerful drug cartels in Mexico. Methamphetamine, another of the top drug threats in the United States, is also supplied by Mexican drug cartels.

The 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) is a comprehensive assessment of the threat posed to the United States by the trafficking and use of illicit drugs. You can read the DEA threat assessment report here.

One piece of good news is that the use and availability of cocaine is declining, Rosenberg said.

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