Data Limitations Make Estimating Demographics of Heroin Users in the US Difficult

"The prevalence of heroin use is extremely difficult to estimate despite the fact that harm to society associated with heroin marketing and use is substantial. A disproportionate number of heroin users are part of the nonsampled populations in general prevalence surveys (persons with no fixed address, prison inmates, etc.) Also, heroin users are believed to represent less than one half of one percent of our total population, making heroin usage a relatively rare event. Sample surveys are not sensitive enough to measure rare events reliable. Data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (which is considered to produce conservative estimates), indicated that 1.9 percent of blacks, 1.6 percent of Hispanics, and 1.4 percent of whites had ever tried heroin. As will be noted later in this report, the data available from hospital emergency rooms and from drug abuse treatment programs indicated that heroin use is a more serious problem among blacks than whites and Hispanics."


Andrea N. Kopstein and Patrice T. Roth, "Drug Abuse Among Racial/Ethnic Groups" (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1993), p. 13.