what is heroin?

Heroin use has increased sharply across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use, including women, people who are privately insured, and people with higher incomes.


How big is the problem of heroin overdoses?


Not only are people using heroin, they are also using multiple other substances, including cocaine and prescription opioids. Nearly all people who use heroin also use at least 1 other drug.

Heroin-involved overdose deaths have increased by nearly 5 times since 2010 (from 3,036 in 2010 to 14,996 in 2018).2 From 2017 to 2018, the heroin-involved overdose death rate decreased by over 4%. Factors that may contribute to the decrease in heroin-involved deaths include fewer people initiating heroin use, shifts from a heroin-based market to a fentanyl-based market, increased treatment provision for people using heroin, and expansion of naloxone access.


Learn More: Heroin Data

How is heroin harmful?

  • Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug.

  • A heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma, and death.

  • People often use heroin along with other drugs or alcohol. This practice is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of overdose.

  • Heroin is typically injected but is also smoked and snorted. When people inject heroin, they are at risk of serious, long-term viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B, as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream, and heart.