“The face of heroin use in America has changed utterly. Forty or fifty years ago heroin addicts were overwhelmingly male, disproportionately black, and very young (the average age of first use was 16). Most came from poor inner-city neighbourhoods. These days, the average user looks more like Ms. Scudo. More than half are women, and 90% are white. The drug has crept into the suburbs and the middle classes. And although users are still mainly young, the age of initiation has risen: most first-timers are in their mid-20s, according to a study led by Theodore Cicero of Washington University in St Louis.
The spread of heroin to a new market of relatively affluent, suburban whites has allowed the drug to make a comeback, after decades of decline. Over the past six years the number of annual users has almost doubled, from 370,000 in 2007 to 680,000 in 2013. Heroin is still rare compared with most other drugs: cannabis, America’s favourite (still mostly illegal) high, has nearly 50 times as many users, for instance. But heroin’s resurgence means that, by some measures, it is more popular than crack cocaine, the bogeyman of the 1980s and 1990s. Its increased popularity in America contrasts strongly with Europe, where the number of users has fallen by a third in the past decade. What explains America’s relapse?
Source: The Economist – November 22, 2014