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50 Heroin Addiction Statistics & Facts

Heroin statistics provide crucial insights into the scope and impact of this illicit opioid drug. By examining data on usage, addiction rates, overdose deaths, and global trends, we can better understand the profound challenges posed by heroin and the urgent need for effective prevention, treatment, and harm reduction strategies.

Heroin Statistics & Facts

  • Heroin is an illegal opioid drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy plant.
  • According to the World Drug Report 2021 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it is estimated that 10.6 million people worldwide used opioids, including heroin, in 2019.
  • In the United States, approximately 652,000 people reported using heroin in 2018, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that heroin overdose deaths increased from around 3,000 in 2010 to over 15,000 in 2018.
  • In 2020, approximately 95,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, with opioids (including heroin) being a significant contributor, according to preliminary data from the CDC.
  • Heroin use is associated with a high risk of addiction. In fact, it is estimated that about 23% of individuals who use heroin will develop opioid addiction.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), opioids, including heroin, account for the largest burden of drug-related deaths globally.
  • Heroin addiction often starts with the misuse of prescription opioids. Approximately 80% of heroin users reported misusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • There are plenty of rehab centers that offer heroin rehab programs across the United States.
  • The production of heroin is primarily concentrated in Afghanistan, which accounted for an estimated 84% of the global opium production in 2020, according to the UNODC.
  • The purity of heroin can vary significantly, depending on the region. In the United States, the purity of heroin seized by law enforcement agencies ranged from less than 10% to over 90% in recent years.
  • Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted. Injection carries the highest risk of overdose and transmission of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who inject drugs, including heroin, are at an increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases.
  • In recent years, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been increasingly mixed with heroin, resulting in a higher risk of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is estimated to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
  • The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reported that over 8,200 overdose deaths involving opioids were reported in Europe in 2018.
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Heroin Deaths Statistics Worldwide

  • According to the World Drug Report 2021 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an estimated 103,000 people died from opioid use disorders, including heroin, worldwide in 2019.
  • The report also stated that opioids, including heroin, accounted for the largest burden of drug-related deaths globally, with more than two-thirds of the total drug-related deaths attributed to opioids.
  • In the United States, heroin-related deaths have been a significant concern in recent years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin overdose deaths increased from around 3,000 in 2010 to over 15,000 in 2018.
  • Europe has also experienced a rise in heroin-related deaths. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), over 8,200 overdose deaths involving opioids, including heroin, were reported in Europe in 2018.
  • Heroin-related deaths have been reported in various countries around the world, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Mexico, among others.
  • The availability and purity of heroin, as well as other factors such as drug policies, treatment accessibility, and healthcare infrastructure, can influence the number of heroin-related deaths in different regions.
  • The emergence of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, has contributed to an increased risk of overdose deaths worldwide. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or sold as counterfeit prescription pills, leading to unintentional overdoses.
  • It's worth noting that accurate and comprehensive data on heroin-related deaths can be challenging to gather due to underreporting, varying reporting systems, and limitations in data collection processes in some countries.
Figure 6. National Overdose Deaths Involving Stimulants (Cocaine and Psychostimulants), by Opioid Involvement, Number Among All Ages, 1999-2021
  • The economic cost of heroin addiction includes healthcare expenses, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs. In the United States, the estimated cost of heroin addiction exceeds $51 billion per year.
  • Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be severe and include muscle and bone pain, restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes.
  • Medications like methadone and buprenorphine can be effective in treating heroin addiction by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Access to naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, is crucial in preventing fatal overdoses. Naloxone can quickly restore normal breathing in individuals experiencing an opioid overdose.
  • In some regions, harm reduction strategies, such as needle exchange programs and supervised injection sites, have been implemented to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and provide support for individuals using heroin.
  • The prevalence of heroin use is higher among certain populations, including individuals with a history of previous substance use disorders, those with mental health conditions, and people experiencing homelessness.
  • The abuse of heroin during pregnancy can result in numerous complications, including preterm birth, low birth weight, developmental delays, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
  • Heroin addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder, and successful treatment often involves a combination of medications, counseling, and social support.
  • In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted drug markets and drug supply chains, leading to shifts in drug use patterns and increased risks for individuals who use heroin.
  • The availability and purity of heroin can fluctuate in response to law enforcement efforts, interdiction measures, and changes in drug trafficking patterns.
  • The average age of first-time heroin users in the United States is around 23 years old, according to the NSDUH.
  • Men have historically had higher rates of heroin use than women, but the gender gap has been narrowing in recent years.
  • Non-Hispanic whites have historically had higher rates of heroin use compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
  • The stigma associated with heroin use can hinder individuals from seeking help and accessing treatment services.
  • The social and economic consequences of heroin addiction can include job loss, strained relationships, homelessness, and involvement in criminal activities.
  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has identified numerous street names for heroin, including "smack," "dope," "H," and "junk."
  • The risk of overdose is particularly high when individuals who have undergone detoxification or a period of abstinence return to using the same amount of heroin they were using before, as their tolerance may have decreased.
  • In 2019, the global seizures of heroin reached a record high of 17.9 tons, according to the UNODC.
  • Heroin addiction can have long-term health effects, including liver disease, lung complications, heart infections, and cognitive impairments.
  • The use of heroin during adolescence can have detrimental effects on brain development, impacting cognition, decision-making, and emotional regulation.
Graphics: Heroin Use Has INCREASED Among Most Demographic Groups, and Heroin Addiction and Overdose Deaths are Climbing
  • In the United States, the percentage of drug overdose deaths involving heroin varied by region in 2019, ranging from 8.2% in the Midwest to 36.9% in the Northeast, according to the CDC.
  • The availability and affordability of heroin can influence patterns of use and addiction rates in different regions.
  • The high cost of heroin addiction often leads individuals to engage in criminal activities to support their drug use.
  • In some cases, individuals who use heroin may engage in risky behaviors, such as sharing needles, which can increase the risk of infectious diseases and other health complications.
  • Research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and individual factors contributes to the development of heroin addiction.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are common among individuals with heroin addiction.
  • In recent years, efforts to address the opioid crisis and reduce heroin use have included increased access to naloxone, expanded medication-assisted treatment programs, and public education campaigns.
  • The UNODC estimates that global opium production, which serves as a precursor for heroin, reached its highest level in 2020, driven by increased cultivation in Afghanistan.
  • The potency of heroin can vary widely, and individuals who are not accustomed to its strength may be at a higher risk of overdose.
  • The use of heroin and other opioids can lead to respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening during an overdose.
  • According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), heroin purity in Europe has increased in recent years, which may contribute to the higher risk of overdose.
  • The use of heroin and other opioids can lead to constipation, dental problems, and an increased susceptibility to infections.
  • Individuals with a history of heroin addiction may be at an increased risk of relapse even after years of abstinence, highlighting the chronic nature of the disorder.
  • Prevention efforts, such as education programs targeting at-risk populations and the responsible prescribing of opioids, are crucial in reducing the initiation of heroin use.
  • Comprehensive treatment approaches that address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of heroin addiction have been shown to be the most effective in promoting long-term recovery.

Most Effective Treatment or Therapy for Heroin Addiction

  1. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are commonly used in MAT. These medications help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and stabilize brain chemistry, allowing individuals to focus on their recovery.
  2. Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and motivational interviewing, are essential components of effective treatment. These therapies help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use, develop coping skills, and enhance motivation for long-term recovery.
  3. Individualized Treatment Plans: Effective treatment for heroin addiction takes into account individual needs, preferences, and co-occurring mental health conditions. A personalized treatment plan addresses the unique challenges and circumstances of each person, increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.
  4. Supportive Services: Supportive services, including case management, counseling, vocational training, and access to housing and social support networks, play a vital role in supporting individuals throughout their recovery journey. These services address the broader psychosocial needs of individuals, improving overall well-being and reducing the risk of relapse.
  5. Continuity of Care: Long-term, ongoing care is crucial for sustaining recovery from heroin addiction. This includes regular monitoring, follow-up appointments, and access to support groups and aftercare programs. Continuous support helps individuals navigate challenges, reinforce positive behaviors, and maintain their recovery over time.

The most effective treatment may vary for each individual, and a comprehensive assessment by healthcare professionals is necessary to determine the most appropriate approach. Additionally, treatment should be tailored to address any underlying physical or mental health conditions that may coexist with heroin addiction.

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