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Increased heroin use draws attention in California

  • In this Monday, May 6, 2013 file photo, a drug addict prepares a needle to inject himself with heroin in front of a church in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in February 2014 spotlighted the reality that heroin is no longer limited to the back alleys of American life. Once mainly a city phenomenon, the drug has spread to the country and suburbs. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

SACRAMENTO — Some states, including California, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what's happening in California:


"It is certainly something that the cops on the streets are talking about. It's definitely one of the top four drugs being smuggled into California." — California Attorney General Kamala Harris.


California heroin deaths by year, from the California Department of Public Health:

2006: 268

2007: 284

2008: 317

2009: 347

2010: 318*

*For 2010, the most recent year available, only 2,568 of the 3,967 total drug poisoning deaths have specific drugs identified and many deaths have multiple drugs identified.

Heroin ranked sixth in causing drug-related deaths from 2006-2010, according to the California Department of Public Health:

Opioid Pharmaceuticals: 5,548

Amphetamines: 2,509

Sedatives: 2,262

Methadone: 1,771

Cocaine: 1,606

Heroin: 1,534


California has seen an increase in heroin addicts seeking treatment since fiscal year 2006-2007, as a percentage of addicts seeking treatment for all drugs, including alcohol, according to the California Department of Health Care Services.

2006-07: 15.7

2007-08: 15.8

2008-09: 15.9

2009-10: 16.6

2010-11: 17.3

2011-12: 17.9

2012-13: 19.1

Despite the recent increase, heroin has generally been overshadowed by methamphetamine over the last 20 years. In business year 1993-94, California had 86,646 heroin admissions, or 42 percent of all admissions. The same year methamphetamine abuse represented 10 percent of admissions. By 2011-2012, heroin admissions had dropped to a 20-year low of 30,406 before increasing to 33,401 admissions in 2012-13, accounting for 19.1 percent of all admissions. By contrast, methamphetamine accounted for 27.5 percent of admissions in 2012-2013.

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