FACT CHECK: Crisis Indeed, “Every Week, 300 Citizens Killed by Heroin”

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B-Roll of CBP Heroin and Meth Seizure at the Port of San Luis, AZ, Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs – Visual Communications Division

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump claimed in an address Tuesday that heroin kills 300 Americans each week.

“Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone,” he said.

Verdict: True

In 2017, 15,482 Americans died of heroin overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This amounts to 298 people a week, on average.

Fact Check:

Trump addressed the nation Tuesday night from the Oval Office in an attempt to rally support for a border wall. During the address, he cited the flow of illegal drugs, including heroin, across the southern border. The DEA reports that most of the heroin sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico and is primarily smuggled through legal ports of entry at the southwest border.

Heroin is a “semi-synthetic, highly addictive opioid that is made from morphine, a substance taken from opium poppy plants, and can produce intense feelings of euphoria,” according to the CDC.

In 2017, 15,482 Americans died from heroin overdoses, the agency reported. This averages out to about 42 deaths a day or 298 deaths a week.

Heroin deaths have increased from one person per every 100,000 in 2008 to nearly five out of every 100,000 in 2017, a five-fold increase.

Rising heroin death rates have coincided with an increase in overall dependence on the drug. Heroin use has increased “among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels,” according to the CDC. Non-Hispanic whites males are at a higher risk of overdosing on heroin.

Many experts link the increase in heroin use to over-prescription of opioid drugs.

“The root cause for the revival of heroin markets in the US was opioid overprescribing. This created millions of potential heroin users,” Keith Humphreys, who served as a senior policy advisor for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

When prescription drugs became harder to get, some people turned to heroin, a cheaper and more easily obtained alternative.

“There have been a lot [of] theories about why heroin use is going up. The biggest theory is that the crackdown on prescription drugs, like Vicodin and OxyContin, were being overprescribed, and as prescribers slowed down the prescriptions of these drugs, heroin use went up,” Scott Krakower, an addiction expert, told CBS News.

The CDC states that prescription opioids abusers are 40 times more likely to use heroin.

An increase in heroin-related deaths has also been linked to the proliferation of the drug fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is 50 times more potent than heroin and is sometimes mixed in with heroin to increase the potency of a particular dose or batch.

One study published in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 41 percent of the heroin overdose deaths that occurred from 2012 through 2014 involved fentanyl.

“Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems,” said former CDC Director Tom Frieden in a 2016 White House statement.

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