The face of heroin addiction: Who uses heroin? (INFOGRAPHIC)

How many people in the U.S. use heroin and what are their demographics? Check out this infographic to learn more about the face of heroin addiction as well as the risks and dangers that parallel increase in heroin use trends.

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Who uses heroin in the U.S.?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2012 reported that:

  • 669,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year
  • 467, 000 people are heroin dependent (number has doubled from 10 years earlier)
  • 156,000 people start heroin use (doubled from ten years earlier)

About 52% of the current population of heroin users are women – says lead study author and Washington University neuropharmacologist Theodore Cicero.

The face of heroin addiction: Who uses heroin? (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Other statistics indicate that 90% of people who started using heroin in the past decade are white, and most of them are in their late 20s. Out of all the survey respondents who had taken heroin, 75% of them did so while living in small cities or non-urban areas. They also tend to be within the age bracket from 18-25 years and come from households with incomes below $20,000.

Geographic trends of heroin use

Heroin use no longer predominates solely in urban areas. Several suburban and rural communities report increasing amounts of heroin seized by officials as well as increasing numbers of overdose deaths due to heroin use. Heroin use is also on the rise in many urban areas among young adults aged 18-25.

The new population of users is diverse and there is no longer a typical heroin user. Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s heroin use was largely confined to urban populations, heroin use in the 1990s and 2000s spread to users in suburban and rural areas, more affluent users, younger users, and users of a wider range of races, according to academic research.

Heroin use dangers

The increase heroin use, abuse and dependence across most demographic groups parallels the increase in heroin-related overdose deaths. However, the ripple effect and costs from heroin use to society at large is also dramatic and includes:

  1. Crime and its associated costs (harm to victims, law enforcement, incarceration), Productivity losses
  2. Medical costs
  3. Addicts as vectors for HIV and Hepatitis
  4. The emotional costs to loved ones

If we put all these effects together, it is clear that the problems that stem from heroin use impose an enormous burden on our nation. One important thing is that everyone is more aware that the key to solving America’s heroin epidemic is making treatment available. And, luckily, treatment continues to grow in effectiveness, and is more readily available to addicts who seek help.

Heroin addiction questions

Would you like to ask or add something? Please leave your questions in the comments section at the end. We appreciate your feedback and try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. If you like our infographic, please Share.

Reference Sources:  CDC: Vital Signs: Demographic and Substance Use Trends Among Heroin Users — United States, 2002–2013
CDC: Heroin Epidemic
DEA: National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary
DrugAbuse: What is heroin and how is it used?
DrugAbuse: What is the scope of heroin use in the United States
The Verge: America’s typical heroin user is now a white woman in the suburbs
The JAMA Network: The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States – A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. How do you reach someone on this drug? She has lost everything, family, kids,job,car, and home. Lives in homes for sale, or on the streets. In and out of jail. Family has not seen her for years, I would do anything to help her. How???

    1. Hi Terry. I suggest that you call a toll-free Heroin Helpline on 1-888-988-7934 to get in touch with trusted and confidential helpline professionals available 24/7. You will speak to a sympathetic, well-trained individual who can help you find a reliable recovery program that will meet your friend’s treatment needs.

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?