The number of people taking heroin for the first time decreased by more than half in 2017 compared to the previous year, in the sense that prevention efforts could take hold, according to a government poll published Friday.
National survey on the use and health of drugs says that 81,000 people took the drug last year, compared to 170,000 new users in 2016.
Officials said the result is important because heroin is increasingly linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that are fueling the US overdose crisis.
Approximately 11.4 million people have abused any form of opioids in 2017 compared to 12.7 million in the previous year, officials said, indicating a notable decline in prescribed hydrocodone abuse.
Federal officials said they are heartened by the change, while Congress controls the supply of addiction pills and President Trump treats the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency. Yet they recognized that drug abuse is rampant and continues to be difficult, since the supply of drugs becomes more dangerous.
"The message is beginning to come to them, but as these data show, there is still a lot to be done," said James Carroll, acting director of the National Drug Control Office.
A record of 72,000 people died of overdoses in 201
The poll says that the number of heroin users has doubled roughly since 15 years ago, there were seven times more heroin deaths in 2017.
"What it tells us is that we have a hero on the street that is very more toxic and dangerous than it was in 2002, "said Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary HHS for mental health and substance use.
Senate voting is expected on a broad opioid package on Monday which, among other things, will force the US postal service to request advanced electronic data on foreign packages, so customs agents can direct fentanyl lethal mails .
The annual survey on drug use and mental health is compiled by interviews with about 67,500 people in families, college dormitories, homeless shelters and military bases to get a snapshot of drug use in America .
Marijuana continues to be the most used illicit drug, with 15% of Americans over the age of 12 or 41 million people – reported use.
All age groups showed an increase in marijuana use and use among women rose from 17.5% in 2016 to 19.2% in 2017.  Marijuana is followed by psychoactive drugs such as prescription opioids and sedatives (18 million), cocaine (6 million), and then hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamine and then heroin, which was used by 886,000 Americans.
"The use of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine is all over," said Carroll. . "So we're not just in an opiate crisis, it's a crisis of addictions."
Mr. Carroll has just returned from Colombia, where he discussed growing cocaine availability with President Ivan Duque Martinez and efforts to cut South American production.