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The heroin epidemic is under scrutiny yet again following the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead in his New York apartment with a syringe in his arm and empty bags of heroin nearby.
Drug poisoning deaths involving heroin have risen 45 percent since 1999, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. The crisis is growing, but why? Here are some of the reasons heroin use is skyrocketing.
1. Cost. While methamphetamine abuse appears to be stable, heroin use has nearly doubled since 2007. This is, in part, because the drug is relatively inexpensive. It's just a fraction of the cost of black market prescription pills.
2. Availability. Mexican heroin production is bringing drug trafficking to new U.S. markets.The number of law enforcement agencies reporting high availability of heroin has increased by nearly 17 percent since 2007, the National Drug Threat Survey reports.
3. Fentanyl. Some dealers are mixing heroin with fentanyl, a strong opiate pain medicine that’s 80 times more potent than morphine. The deadly combo has resulted in multiple deaths. Watch the video below to learn more.
4. Prescription Drug Abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a report in August 2013 documenting the non-medical, illegal use of prescription drugs increases a person’s risk of becoming a heroin user. More than four out of five people who try heroin for the first time are prescription drug users.
5. Younger Users. The average age of first-time users is dropping. In 2011 the average age was 22.1 years. In 2009 it was 25.5 years.