Heroin use jumps in US as painkiller addicts switch drugs

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Heroin is seen as a cheaper alternative to opiod painkillersImage source, Getty Images
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Heroin is seen as a cheaper alternative to opiod painkillers

Heroin use in the US has surged in the past decade as experts say people using opioid painkillers are increasingly turning to heroin as a cheaper high.

The number of heroin users rose by 63% between 2002 and 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday.

Use among white Americans was mostly responsible for the jump, the CDC said.

However, the report found increases among people of all income levels and most age groups.

"Heroin use is increasing rapidly across nearly all demographic groups, and with that increase, we are seeing a dramatic rise in deaths," CDC chief Tom Frieden said.

Local police departments across the country have been dealing with an uptick in heroin overdoses in recent years, and many police officers have begun carrying life-saving medication to prevent deaths.

The CDC reported that over 8,000 people died from a heroin-involved overdose in 2013, nearly twice the number of deaths seen just two years earlier.

Federal officials cited a number of factors causing the rise in heroin use.

As authorities have cracked down on prescription drug abuse in recent years, users who have become addicted to the pills have switched to heroin. The drug is often cheaper and more easily available.

The amount of heroin being brought into the US has also increased, driving down the cost of the street drug.