By Clyde Haberman, The New York Times. November 22, 2015
"The crisis today is markedly different from its predecessors. It has settled not so much in large cities as in suburbs and rural America. New users are mostly white. Indeed, a study last year for JAMA Psychiatry, a journal published by the American Medical Association, found that in the last decade whites accounted for 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time. Typically, they were young people who initially got hooked on OxyContin, Percocet or other widely prescribed pain relievers belonging to a class of drugs known as opioids. Heroin, also an opioid, became desirable because it is a lot cheaper than those medications, and readily available. Its users are estimated at 330,000, triple the number a decade ago.
Death has come calling. Of the 43,982 drug fatalities recorded in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8,257 were heroin-related. That was 39 percent more than a year earlier and four times the toll in 1999. Deaths from other opioids have leveled off in recent years — there were 16,235 in 2013 — but they are nonetheless quadruple the 1999 figure."