The office of statewide Health Planning and Development released a report in February that showed the number of heroin-emergency room visits in the inland region declined in 2016.
In Riverside County, the number of heroin-related emergency room visits fell from 184 in 2015 to 150 in 2016, after experiencing year over year increases. Hospitals in San Bernardino County experienced a similar decline from 184 heroin-related visits in 2015 to 150 in 2016.
The downward trend seen in the Inland Empire is contrary to what was experienced in the rest of the state between 2012 and the first quarter of 2016. During this period, emergency department visits for heroin poisoning increased state-wide among all age groups and especially among those between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine.
Experts were not surprised by the increased heroin use and view it as one of the unintended consequences of opioid addiction—the very reason the inland communities must remain vigilant.
In a report titled the Relationship between Nonmedical Prescription-Opioid Use and Heroin Use the New England Journal of Medicine concluded the nonmedical use of prescription opioids is a strong risk factor for heroin use.
According to the report, “The transition from nonmedical use of prescription opioids to heroin use appears to be part of the progression of addiction in a subgroup of nonmedical users of prescription opioids, primarily among persons with frequent nonmedical use and those with prescription opioid abuse or dependence.”
The report stressed that regardless of the connection between opioids and heroin addiction, in order to minimize overall opioid-related morbidity and mortality, continued efforts are needed to help people who are already addicted, in addition to efforts to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place.
Other factors contributing to heroin addiction are heroin market forces that include accessibility, reduced price, and the high purity of heroin currently available.