The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that there have been more heroin-related deaths in the U.S. than gun-related deaths for the first time in history.

For the first time since the CDC is active, heroin-related deaths have surpassed the 30,000 barrier. 2015 data shows that, in comparison to 2014 numbers, there was an increase of over 5,000 deaths caused by heroin. This rise involves deaths caused by synthetic opiates, like fentanyl. This particular substance is about 40 or 50 times more dangerous than traditional heroin.

For the first time since the 90’s, deaths caused by heroin surpassed deaths caused by opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, both painkillers. Image credit:

Many types of opioids are perfectly legal when they are prescripted by doctors. The main problem, according to scientists, is that because both heroin and opioid painkillers function similarly on the human brain, prescription opioids might produce a posterior addiction to heroin.

Guns vs. heroin

The fact that heroin-related death rates are higher than gun-related death rates doesn’t mean that gun homicide numbers are lowering. In 2007, homicides caused by guns overpassed heroin overdose deaths by five to one.

Last year, there were 12,979 gun-related deaths while opioids overdose accounted for 12,989 deaths. The statistics show an immense increment in opioids abuse and a minor increase in gun homicides.

The CDC is recommending urgently a new approach for the federal government to combat more efficiently this problem. The total amount of deaths regarding opioids use got to 33,091. The CDC director Tom Frieden warned that this trend would continue for the next years if there are no new actions to fight it.

“Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems. We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders and increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose,” Frieden stated in a report issued by the CDC on Thursday.

CDC recommendations include communicating with the Chinese government to decrease the illicit traffic of fentanyl into the U.S. and the settlement of 271 new Community Health Centers that can fulfill all the medical assistance required for American citizens across the nation.

This week, Congress approved $1 billion to fight the opioid crisis, focusing mainly on the public treatment of affected people.

Source: White House