Teen Heroin Use Facts

Double Exposure Of Woman With Syringe And Drug On Table
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Heroin is a growing problem among adults. Though use of heroin among youth is less than other illicit drugs because of the grave effects, it has and the uptick in young adult usage, parents need to be aware of it.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an addictive opioid drug that comes from morphine, a drug derived from Asian opium poppy plant seed pods. It can be injected, smoked and snorted for a high. It is usually in the form of a black tar-like substance (giving rise to the "black tar heroin" name), or a brown or white powder.

Heroin use creates euphoria, drowsiness, and lethargy. The dangers of its use include hypoxia, a reduction in oxygen in the blood that impacts the brain. Long-term use can lead to vascular problems, such as collapsed veins when used intravenously, pulmonary and gastrointestinal issues, among others.

There are increased dangers from contamination of the drug, which is often mixed with other substances and additives that can be toxic and deadly.

Use Among Teens

Here are some of the interesting statistics of teen heroin drug use from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • The percentage of teens ages of 12 to 17 who perceived a risk from using heroin once or twice a week declined in the years between 2002 through 2010 from 82.5 percent to 80.5 percent.
  • About 11.6 percent of teenagers think is it easy to get heroin, and that it is available to them.
  • In 2010, the average age for first-time use among teens and adults, aged 12 to 49, was 21.3 years, which is significantly younger than the 2009 estimate at 25.5 years.

The Scope of Teen Heroin Use Today

To understand the statistical problem of heroin use among teens, you have to go back to 1975 through 1979. During that period, reported past-year use by 12th-grade high school students dropped by half from 1 percent to 0.5 percent. That rate stayed the same through 1993, but started to climb again in 1994, peaking in the late 1990s and in early 2000 with these numbers:

  • 8th graders (1.6%)
  • 10th graders (1.4%)
  • 12th graders (1.5%)

Since that time, heroin use has been declining. In the most current past, the Monitoring the Future Study from 2005 through 2011, the rates of teens who have used heroin in the past year for all three grades falls between 0.7% and 0.9%.

When teens feel they can access a drug easily, they give the message that it is a drug they may choose to use.

In the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 29.7 percent of 12th graders say that heroin is easy to obtain and 12.6 percent of 8th graders agree.

Another troubling statistic is in the young adult age group, as those reporting that they have used heroin at least once in their lifetimes has increased from 1.7 percent in 2005 to 1.9 percent in 2010.

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