The United States has reached a record number of fatal drug overdoses in 2014, according to a report released by the United Nations on Thursday, June 23.
Almost half a million people in the United States are estimated to have died from drug overdoses since 2004.
The U.N.’s World Drug Report 2016 says 61 percent of those deaths were associated with prescription opioids and heroin.
The number of fatalities related to heroin use has increased five-fold since 2000.
“Heroin continues to be the drug that kills the most people and this resurgence must be addressed urgently,” said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
In 2014, almost 1 million people over the age of 12 had used heroin in the past year—a 145 percent increase since 2007.
The highest rate of past-year heroin use was among those who use cocaine, which is 91.5 for every 1,000 users, according to the report. Those who reported non-medical use of prescription opioids followed.
The report says nine out of 10 people who used heroin say they have used the drug with at least one other substance, and most used heroin with at least three other drugs.
— UNODC (@UNODC) June 23, 2016
The spike in heroin use in America has been more pronounced among people ages 18–25, who report a higher use of non-medical use of prescription opioids.
According to the report, it seems like the prevalence in heroin use in the United States had already begun at around 2006.
The rise in heroin use could be attributed to policies and practices related to prescription opioids, like Oxycodone, even in an effort to ease abuse of the drug. Reduced prices and high purity of heroin in the United States also contributes to the increase in heroin use.
Opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, the highest year recorded. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Deaths from prescription opioids—like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have quadrupled since 1999. More than 40 people die daily from overdoses involving prescription opioids, says the CDC.
But neighboring countries are also battling drug issues. Heroin use increased in North America overall in the past decade, the UN. says.
North America continues to hold the highest drug related death rate in the world, which accounts for an estimated one in four drug-related fatalities worldwide.