Trends in Heroin Use: Age

Describes recent trends in heroin use by age.

In 2005, the average age for first-time use of heroin was 22 years old among individuals ages 12 to 49. The number of first-time heroin users and the age at which they initiate heroin use has remained stable since 2002 (SAMHSA, 2006). The manner in which females and males initiate heroin use tends to differ. While males peers often introduce males to heroin, females are introduced to heroin by sexual partners (Chitwood et al., 1998).

According to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health,12 to 17 year-olds were the age group with the greatest increased use of heroin between 2003 and 2004. During this time, 33% more adolescents tried heroin than in the previous year (SAMHSA, 2005). This data conflicts with the 2004 Monitoring the Future study, which reported that heroin use for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained stable between 2003 and 2004 (Johnston et al., 2004). Data may be conflicting due to slight variance in age of the population surveyed.

Substance abuse treatment data for heroin abuse admissions also supports the Monitoring the Future survey, showing a slight decrease (3%) in heroin abuse admissions for 12 to 17 year-olds between 2003 and 2004. However, treatment admission data also shows that the number of treatment admissions for heroin abuse increased 57% between 1994 and 2004 for adolescents ages 12 to 17. Also, heroin abuse admissions between 2003 and 2004 decreased for every age group except adults ages 20 to 29, who showed a 2% increase in admissions. Treatment admission data also shows that the average age of individuals admitted to drug treatment facilities for heroin abuse in 2004 was 36 years old (SAMHSA, 2006b).