The number of heroin deaths increased tenfold during a recent five-year period,according to a recently updated state Health Department report.
Oklahoma’s heroin deaths increased from three deaths in 2007 to 29 in 2012.
“Heroin metabolizes completely into morphine, so it is possible deaths could be misclassified, especially if there is no evidence of heroin use at the scene, and the heroin has already completely metabolized to morphine by the time the decedent’s lab samples are taken,” Claire Nguyen, an epidemiologist at the state Health Department, said in an email.
The increase in deaths could be due to both more heroin usage and better reporting, Nguyen said.
Nguyen, one of the report’s authors, said when she reviews reports from the medical examiner’s office, if morphine is listed in the cause of death, she reviews the available information and looks for heroin metabolites in the toxicology screen or some evidence of either current heroin use or a history of heroin use.
It’s worth noting that states that have had high rates of prescription drug abuse have seen increases in heroin usage.
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