Heroin Use among Southern Arrestees: Regional Findings from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program

By Peters, Ronald J., Jr.; Yacoubian, George S., Jr. et al. | Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Heroin Use among Southern Arrestees: Regional Findings from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program


Peters, Ronald J., Jr., Yacoubian, George S., Jr., Baumler, Elizabeth R., Ross, Michael W., Johnson, Regina J., Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling


The identification of jurisdictional drug use patterns is critical to counselors who address substance abuse proactively. In the current study, heroin use data were analyzed from adult arrestees who were surveyed between 1990 and 1997 through the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program.

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Heroin is highly addictive and is the most commonly used drug of all opiates (Epstein & Gfroerer, 1997; Giannini, 1997; Inciardi & McElrath, 1998). The increased prevalence of heroin use is a cause for concern because of the associated serious health consequences. At the extreme, heroin use can lead to vision impairment, kidney and respiratory disease, blood pressure irregularity, liver disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and death from overdose (Bird, Spence, & Hillan, 1995; Epstein & Gfroerer, 1997; Giannini, 1997; Govitrapong, Suttitum, Kotchabhakdi, & Uneklabh, 1998; Ouellet, Wiebel, & Jimenez, 1995; Pezawas, Fischer, & Diament, 1998). Heroin is generally sniffed or snorted, smoked, or injected. Intravenous injection has a faster euphoric onset (7 to 8 seconds) than intramuscular injection (5 to 8 minutes); or sniffing, or snorting, or smoking (10 to 15 minutes). In addition, the intravenous injection method provides abusers with both the greatest euphoric intensity and the greatest health risks (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1997).

Five major national surveys reported on the use of heroin among several diverse populations: the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program (National Institute of Justice [NIJ], 1999b), the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 1998), Monitoring the Future (MTF; Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1999), the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA; SAMHSA, 1999), and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS; SAMHSA, 1997). In 1998, findings from the National Household Survey reported that the number of heroin users ages 12 and older increased by 300,000 between 1992 and 1997 (SAMHSA, 1999). Within this time span, heroin use increased by 12.2 percentage points for persons ages 12-17 years and 6.3 percentage points among persons ages 18-25 years (SAMHSA, 1999). In comparison, heroin use decreased from 25.7% to 17.3% for persons ages 26-34 years and from 31.0% to 21.0% for persons 35 and older (SAMHSA, 1999). In 1997, SAMHSA reported that heroin use in the southern region of the United States increased by 16.7 percentage points, compared with the northeastern region, which declined from 22.4% to 18.2%; the north central region, which declined from 24.5% to 21.7%; and the western region, which declined from 24.7% to 15% (SAMHSA, 1999).

In 1997, the TEDS reported that 27.1% of the individuals who were admitted for substance abuse treatment in 1996 were heroin abusers (SAMHSA, 1997). This represented a decrease of 4 percentage points from the 1992 TEDS national estimate of 31.1%. Greater treatment admissions were reported for men than for women (66.1% vs. 33.9%), whereas greater admissions were reported for Whites (80.5%) than for Hispanics and African Americans (26.6% and 24.0%, respectively; SAMHSA, 1997). The major route of heroin administration for persons admitted for treatment was injection (71.7%), followed by inhalation, smoking, and oral intake (24.0%, 2.6%, 1.2%, respectively; SAMHSA, 1997).

Between 1992 and 1995, DAWN reported that the number of heroin-related deaths increased in metropolitan areas from 2,282 to 3,802 (SAMHSA, 1998). Specifically, adults ages 35-44 years had the greatest heroin-related mortality rate (45.0%) compared with other age cohorts: 12-25 years old (8.0%), 26-34 years old (25.0%), 45-55 years old (17.0%), and 55 and older (5.0%; SAMHSA, 1998). For individuals who died from heroin-related activity, the major method of administration was injection (75.0%; SAMHSA, 1998). …

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