The University of Arizona

History, Pharmacology, and Prevalence
Heroin Overview:

According to the 2006 NSDUH, there were 91,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used heroin for the first time within the past 12 months.  In 2006, the average age at first use among recent initiates aged 12 to 49 was 20.7 years.  There were no significant changes in the number of initiates or in the average age at first use from 2005 to 2006. 
Also, according to the 2006 NSDUH, approximately 466,000 people received treatment for heroin in 2006.  The heroin treatment admission rate for the United States as a whole decreased by 6 percent between 1995 and 2005, from 109 per 100,000 population aged 12 and over to 102 per 100,000.[1]

Heroin Use by Demographic Group

In 1995 and 1996 combined, males accounted for 67% of the persons that used heroin in the past year.  Twenty-two percent of heroin users were 12-17 years old and 21% were 35 years and older.  Sixty-nine percent of heroin users were White, 21% were Black, and 9% were Latino.  In regard to education in adult heroin users, 41% had less than a high school degree.[2]

See Graph 1 for statistics of primary heroin admissions by race/ethnicity and route of administration in 1995 and 2005.  See Graph 2 for statistics of primary heroin admissions by age group and route of administration in 1995 and 2005. 

Heroin Use by Region

According to the NHSDA for the combined years of 1995 and 1996, rates of past year heroin use varied little by region―0.2% lived in the Northeast and Northcentral, 0.3% in the South, and 0.1% in the West.  Heroin use was also consistent across population densities.  Persons living in large metropolitan areas, small metropolitan areas and outside a metropolitan area all had a heroin user rate of 0.2%.[2]
Opioid/Heroin-Related Hospitalizations in Arizona

The rates of heroin/opioid-related hospitalizations in Arizona have been increasing for several years (Graphs 3, 4, 5, 6).[3]  While this rise indicates growing health problems related to opioids, it does not specify whether the growth is due to heroin specifically, or to other opioids, a concern as there is evidence that abuse of other opioids such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone hydrochloride (Oxycontin) may be increasing.[4]



  • (1) SAMHSA. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 1995-2005. 2005.
  • (2) Epstein J, Gfroerer JC. Heroin Abuse in the United States. 2006 Mar 2.
  • (3) Cunningham JK. Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and Heroin/Opioid Hospital Admissions in Arizona: Trends and Regional Variations (1990-2006). Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona; 2007.
  • (4) NIH. Prescription Drug Abuse. Bethesda, MD; 2006 Apr 10.



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