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Drexel study: Misuse of pain medication is pathway to high-risk behaviors
Date:7/22/2011

PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2011) A new study by researchers at Drexel University's School of Public Health suggests that abuse of prescription painkillers may be an important gateway to the use of injected drugs such as heroin, among people with a history of using both types of drugs. The study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, explores factors surrounding young injection drug users' initiation into the misuse of opioid drugs. Common factors identified in this group included a family history of drug misuse and receiving prescriptions for opioid drugs in the past. The results support a need for efforts to prevent misuse of prescription drugs, particularly during adolescence.

"Participants were commonly raised in household where misuse of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol, was normalized," explains Dr. Stephen Lankenau, an associate professor in the School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. "Access to prescription medications either from a participant's own source, a family member, or a friend was a key feature of initiation into prescription drug misuse."

In numerous cases, the desire to experiment with a prescription opioid drug (the common class of drugs that includes codeine and oxycodone), combined with financial incentives or pressures from friends to sell available quantities, resulted in escalated patterns of opioid misuse, according to the study.

Lankenau and colleagues also describe two key findings as evidence of an emerging dynamic among misuse of opioid drugs and the use of injection drugs. First, four of five IDUs misused an opioid before injecting heroin, in contrast to more conventional patterns of using opioids as a substitute drug after initiating heroin use.

Second, in nearly one out of four young IDUs in this study, a prescription opioid was the first type of drug they injected. Prescription opioids are rarely reported at initiation into injecti
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Contact: Rachel Ewing
raewing@drexel.edu
215-895-2614
Drexel University
Source:Eurekalert

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