Heroin numbers are on the rise with last year seeing more deaths related to overdose than any other year in the last decade in New York.
This surge in heroin usage came into media spotlight when actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead from drug overdose.
In 2013, 420 people died of heroin overdose out of a total of 782 drug overdoses. This is higher than the any other year since 400 people died of heroin overdose in 2003.
Additionally, the number of deaths from heroin overdose has more than doubled in the last three years. Alternatively, the number of overdoses from prescription opioid leveled off over the same time period.
According to the New York City health department, the number of heroin overdoses is highest in the city's wealthiest areas. Over the last three years, the number of deaths in these areas has risen to 5.6 deaths from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
The biggest rise in overdose deaths was in Queens. There were 81 cases of deaths from heroin overdose compared to 53 the year before. The department noted that the rise was in use by young, white men.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an addiction specialist in the health department in 2003, said the profile of a heroin user has shifted over the last 10 years.
"It was almost exclusively Central Brooklyn, South Bronx, East Harlem and overlapped with New York City's highest-need neighborhoods," Kolodny said. "The rest of the city - Staten Island, Queens, most of Manhattan - close to nothing."
More younger and affluent users began by abusing prescription drugs that had the same effects of heroin. Then, they switched to using heroin because it provided a more intense drug high for less money.
With the amount of heroin users increasing, New York officers began carrying naloxone to provide quick defense against overdose if officers were to find a person who had suffered from a heroin overdose.
Naloxone has been used since 2010 to treat heroin overdose and has succeeded in reversing more than 500 overdoses.
However, a large amount of drug abusers are still older adults.
Deborah Witham, chief program officer at VIP Community Services, a treatment center where most patients are on Medicaid, said that most of the people who come seeking treatment are older users, but she said younger users are also increasing as are people with mental health issues.
Researchers found that overdoses from methadone have also remained stable within the last three years.