In addition to the widely acknowledged hazards of prescription opioid misuse—including risk of dependence, overdose, and death—there is evidence that nonmedical use of opioids may also contribute to heroin initiation. A new study, appearing in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, reports that the demographics of heroin use are shifting, and that women, whites, and higher income individuals, are increasingly turning to heroin. The study is among the first in the US to examine the connections between nonmedical use of opioids and heroin in high school seniors. The research, led by Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), examined associations between frequency and recency of nonmedical use of opioids and heroin. Sociodemographic correlates of use of each drug were also calculated.
The study, “Nonmedical Opioid Use and Heroin Use in a Nationally Representative Sample of US High School Seniors,” reports that more than 75% of heroin users had also engaged in opioid misuse. The likelihood of heroin use increased with frequency and recency of opioid misuse. The research team also found that it is primarily white students who are transitioning from opioids to heroin. Their recommendations include a call for more and better interventions to decrease nonmedical opioid use among adolescents and young adults, to forestall the initiation of heroin use.
Read about another study of the opioids/heroin connection, here.
Read about the Obama administration and an initiative to combat addition, here.
Read more about the study findings and recommendations here.
The study abstract may be read here.