Study of Young Adult Nonmedical Opioid Users Finds Escalating Odds of Clinical Abuse

A first of its kind study of prescription opioid use disorder reports that among nonmedical opioid users aged 18 to 34, the probability of having the disorder was significantly greater in 2014 compared to 2002. Prescription opioid use disorder was defined as meeting the criteria for clinical abuse and dependence and requiring treatment. The study group was categorized into adolescents (12-17 years), emerging adults (18-25 years), and young adults (26-34 years). The odds of prescription opioid use disorder doubled among young adults, increased by 37% in emerging adults, and was essentially unchanged in the adolescent cohort. The study was undertaken by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and reported online in Addictive Behaviors.

In addition to increased odds of opioid use disorder, the emerging adult and young adult study populations exhibited a 4x and 9x increase, respectively, in the odds of heroin use; additionally, almost 80% of 12 to 21 aged heroin users reported previous use of prescription opioids. Study author Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, commented, “Given this and the high probability of nonmedical use among adolescents and young adults in general, the potential development of prescription opioid use disorder among youth and young adults represents an important and growing public health concern.”

Read a news story about the study findings here.

The article preview may be read here.

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