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What’s Behind the Rise in Heroin and Opiate Use in the United States?

The rise in heroin and opiate use and abuse has captured national attention recently, with a number of states reporting an alarming growth in heroin use. Just this year, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to Vermont’s dramatic increase in heroin abuse.

The number of 17-25-year-olds who report initiating heroin use in the last year has doubled from 2005, according to Dr. Dana Hunt, a principal associate with Abt Global. Hunt has conducted research in the areas of crime and addictions for more than 30 years.

Abuse of prescription opiates is one reason for the rise in heroin use, but Hunt also points to an “institutional forgetting” about the dangerous consequences of heroin use from epidemics of the past.

Hunt has led research on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Report (ADAM II), which looked at drug use patterns among arrestees. She says this heroin epidemic is more geographically spread and is not just confined to major cities.

Dr. Hunt points out that heroin addiction requires specialized treatment and better access to services, such as methadone programs. “These have to be re-opened, they have to be accessible and people have to know about them,” she says.

Read Dr. Hunt’s op-ed in the Boston Globe on the rise in heroin and opiate use

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