Prescription pill deaths down, heroin deaths on the rise
(WBIR – Knoxville) New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the nation is winning its fight against prescription drugs, but that’s leading to a new battle against an old drug– heroin.
According to data made public Wednesday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of reported painkiller deaths in 1999 was 4,030. That number quadrupled in 2011 with 16,917 deaths. In 2012, the latest year available, deaths from prescription pills dropped five percent to 16,007.
While the number of people dying from painkillers are falling, there’s a 35 percent increase in the number of those dying from heroin overdose. The CDC said in 2011 there were 4,397 heroin overdose deaths. In 2012, there were 5,927 deaths.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said his officers are coming across more people who are addicted to heroin.
“The numbers specifically I can’t give you, but what I can tell you is of the reports that I see, [I see many] where we respond to an overdose death and a person has a needle sticking out of their arm and the indicator is that it is probably heroin,” said Chief Rausch.
Besides laws making it tougher for an addict to get prescription drugs, some experts blame the rise of heroin overdose deaths on the cheaper cost of the illegal drug.
“Typically what we’re seeing is that the prescription drugs are running about $1 per milligram. So if you’re going to get a pill that’s 80 milligrams that’s going to run you $80 for one pill. Which if you went to heroin, heroin is $4 – $5 for one hit of heroin right now,” said Deborah Huddleston with the Metropolitan Drug Commission.
While law enforcement continues to arrest those caught using the illegal drug, Chief Rausch said Knoxville police officers will soon be armed with naloxone, a drug that reverses the affects of opiods and heroin. Chief Rausch hopes by equipping officer with the nasal version of naloxone the number of drug overdoses for the local area will decrease.