1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
Heroin Use (Table 5.11)
Heroin can be taken in various ways, such as injection, smoking, sniffing, and snorting. About 1 million people reported lifetime smoking of heroin in 1997 (OAS, 1998d, Table 78A). This represents a significant reduction in lifetime use since 1996 when nearly 1.7 million persons reported smoking heroin. Approximately 1.2 million persons reported having ever sniffed or snorted heroin in 1997.
Estimates of heroin incidence are subject to wide variability and usually do not show any clear trend; however, there has been a statistically significant upward trend in the number of new heroin users between 1992 and 1996, particularly among adolescents. Age-specific rates of first-time heroin use among youthsaged 12 to 17 increased from 3 to 4 per 100,000 potential new users between 1990 and 1996 (OAS, 1998c, Table 42).
Table 5.11 shows lifetime heroin prevalence for selected demographic groups by method of administration and by age of respondent in 1997. Adults aged 18 or older were more likely to report lifetime heroin use than were youths aged 12 to 17. Overall and among adults aged 18 or older, males were more likely than females to report lifetime heroin use. The only significant differences in lifetime heroin use prevalence by race/ethnicity was among the 18 to 25 year olds, where whites reported higher rates than both blacks and Hispanics.
As mentioned earlier, heroin can be introduced into the body in several different ways. In 1997, fewer than 1% of the overall population reported using each method of administration (i.e., smoking, snorting or sniffing, or injecting heroin). Additionally, there were few statistically significant differences in the prevalence of individuals smoking heroin by demographic characteristics.
13 Estimates of heroin use from the survey are likely to be low due to the probable undercoverage of the heroin-using population, many of whom are believed to be outside the sampling frame. For example, 20% of all past year heroin users were from the nonhousehold population (homeless and the institutionalized), according to the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area Drug Study (DC*MADS) (Bray & Marsden, 1999; NIDA, 1994).
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