“I’ve been with the DEA almost 30 years, and I have to tell you, I’ve never seen it this bad,” acting DEA deputy commissioner Jack Riley told a House Judiciary Subcommittee On Crime, terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
Heroin deaths grew from 5,900 to 8,200 between 2012 and 2013, according to the White House Office of National Drug Policy. More than half of all overdose deaths in the United States are from heroin or prescription painkillers.
The epidemic has affected Americans of all backgrounds, Riley added.
“Heroin can be found in virtually every corner of our country, in places I’ve never seen it, large and small, urban and rural,” he said.
Riley and other officials blamed the surge in heroin use on the over-prescription of prescription painkillers, pointing out that eighty percent of new heroin users previously used prescription opioids. People who become addicted to prescription pills often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
“The price of heroin has fallen to new lows, about ten dollars a day,” said Rep. Judy Chu of California. “Prescription opioids cost about 80 dollars a day. For those already addicted to prescription drugs, heroin becomes an attractive option.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, said the Obama Administration hasn’t done enough to fight the problem.
“Despite the ongoing heroin epidemic, despite the surge in deaths, and despite that illicit controlled substances and their purveyors pose a lethal threat to the American people, the Obama administration has continued to shirk its duty to protect this nation from dangerous narcotics,” he said.