The number of young adults admitted to California hospital emergency rooms with heroin poisoning increased sixfold over the past decade, the state said, the latest evidence of growing abuse of the highly addictive drug.
Heroin abuse has been on the rise across the United States, in part because it has become easier to obtain than prescription opiates like Oxycontin.
“It’s consistent with what we’re seeing in our narcotic treatment programs - just a lot more young people,” said Tom Renfree, who heads substance abuse disorder services for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association in Sacramento.
“There’s been a real spike.”
About 1,300 young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 were seen in emergency rooms in the state with heroin poisoning in 2014, more than six times the roughly 200 seen in 2005, the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development said.
The statistics do not include patients who were admitted to the hospital after treatment in the emergency room, and the state did not say whether the patients lived or died.
Heroin poisoning is most commonly caused by overdose, but it can also include instances in which the user has been poisoned by a substance used to cut the drug, or other adverse effects.
A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that deaths from heroin overdoses nearly tripled from 2010 to 2013 in the United States.
By Sharon Bernstein