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Heroin Statistics

Heroin is a highly addictive drug and is the most widely abused illicit opiate in the United States. Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the opium poppy plant. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 3.8 million Americans aged 12 or older reported trying heroin at least once during their lifetimes, representing 1.5% of the population aged 12 or older. Approximately 453,000 (0.2%) reported past year heroin use and 213,000 (0.1%) reported past month heroin use.

Heroin addiction statistics are mainly compiled from arrest records and medical conditions that are documented by medical facilities that treat heroin abusers. The hidden facts about this drug make it especially dangerous. Anonymous surveys are often used to get information from the public about heroin use and abuse. This is done in hopes that people will be honest about their use of the drug without having to reveal who they are, and without the fear of legal consequences.

It is not uncommon for heroin addicts to spend as much as $200.00 per day to get the amount of the drug that they need to sustain their addiction and avoid withdrawal symptoms. The significant cost of obtaining the drug is undoubtedly partially responsible for high rates of homelessness among heroin addicts. Addiction to heroin is so powerful that addicts will steal from their work, family, and friends to obtain the drug. Individuals addicted to heroin often literally have to hit rock bottom (arrest, loss of relationships, loss of job, etc.) before they are willing to seek help. See below some statistics about heroin, its users, and some of the social and financial liability heroin abuse has had on modern society.


  • Among students surveyed as part of the U.S. 2008 Monitoring the Future study, 1.4% of eighth graders, 1.2% of tenth graders, and 1.3% of twelfth graders reported lifetime use of heroin.
  • Approximately 75.5% of eighth graders, 83.1% of tenth graders, and 73.2% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2008 reported that using heroin occasionally without a needle was a “great risk.” Additionally, approximately 86.4% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2008 reported that using heroin regularly was a “great risk.”
  • According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 23.4% of State prisoners and 17.9% of Federal prisoners surveyed in 2004 indicated that they used heroin/opiate at some point in their lives.
  • From 1997 to 2007, the number of admissions to treatment in which heroin was the primary drug of abuse increased from 235,143 in 1997 to 246,871 in 2007. Heroin admissions represented 14.6% of the total drug/alcohol admissions to treatment during 1997 and 13.6% of the treatment admissions in 2007. The average age of those admitted to treatment for heroin during 2007 was 36 years.
  • In 2008, 114,000 persons ages 12 or older reported using heroin for the first time within the past 12 months. The average age of recent first-time heroin users aged 12-49 was 23.4 in 2008.
  • In 2008, just over half (57.7%) of youth aged 12-17 perceived trying heroin once or twice to be a great risk, while 81.3% considered using heroin once or twice a week to be a great risk.
  • 69% of all admissions to addiction treatment for heroin in 2007 were male.
  • 64% of all heroin addicts admitted to treatment in 2007 reported injection as their method of use. 32% reported heroin use by means os snorting, and 2% reported smoking it.
  • 246,871 (13.6% of all admissions) persons treated for addiction in 2007 reported heroin as their primary drug of abuse. This number is down from its peak of 286,157 (15.1%) in 2002.
  • Drug tests showed that 29% of all arrestees in Chicago in 2008 tested positive for heroin.
  • The purity of heroin from South America declined from 49.7% in 2001 to 36.1 in 2006, while the purity of heroin from Mexico increased from 21% to 30% over that same period.
  • Throughout 2005 and 2006, JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York hosted 243 seizure events resulting in 634.6 kg of heroin seized, almost all of it white powder from South America.
  • Compared to the cocoa plant, which takes at least a year to mature, the opium poppy can yield opium gum in as little as six months with up to 3 harvests per year.
  • Afghanistan produced 93% of the worlds poppy in 2007, bringing in $4 billion, almost a third of Afghanistan’s total (licit and illicit) GDP of $11.5 billion.
  • Of the 4% of heroin not coming from Afghanistan, Mexico provides most of it in the western US, while heroin east of the Mississippi comes from Columbia
  • In 2008, 282,000 people aged 12 or older reported dependence on heroin in the past year.
  • In 2008 341,000 people aged 12 or older reported receiving treatment in the past year for heroin addiction.

Although heroin use and addiction statistics have not fluctuated significantly in recent years, the steady percentages of populations using heroin year after year show that it isn’t going anywhere and so long as there are addicts to fuel the demand, heroin will be supplied through black markets and smugglers around the world.

The onset of heroin addiction can be subtle or immediate, and the only way to regain management in life after addiction is treated in some form. If you or someone you know has a problem with heroin addiction, treatment is strongly recommended and available. contains the most comprehensive directory of addiction treatment centers on the Internet. For more information, we encourage you to explore our site, fill out our free, confidential assessment, or call us at 1-800-610-4673. We’re here to help!