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Study Sheds Light on Young Suburban Heroin Users
Date:10/18/2011

HINSDALE, Ill., Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers found Chicago area suburban heroin users have little knowledge about the drug and its effects when they first use it, and they often substitute heroin after becoming addicted to prescription pain medications.

Those are some of the conclusions from a 10-month study, entitled "Understanding Suburban Heroin Use," for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education's Reed Hruby Heroin Prevention Project.  The research team from Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy conducted in-depth, confidential interviews with 15 current and former young heroin users, ages 22 to 31 years old, from Chicago's western suburbs. Respondents from western Cook, DuPage and Will counties discussed how they began using heroin and what they knew about heroin when they first tried the drug.

Results indicate young, suburban heroin users believed when they "snorted or sniffed" heroin they were less likely to become addicted.  Nearly two-thirds of the study respondents said they turned to heroin after first using prescription pain medications, or as a way to "come down" from cocaine use.  Co-authors Kathie Kane-Willis and Stephanie Schmitz screened more than 50 candidates and developed a sample of 15 heroin users for more extensive questioning.  They also conducted focus groups with 28 young suburban participants who had been involved with drugs in high school, and surveyed more than 100 suburban parents, in an effort to paint a picture of Chicago-area suburban heroin users.

According to the report, the heroin-involved interviewees reported they initiated to the drug in one of three ways.

  • They had first taken and often became dependent on pain pills (Oxycontin or Vicodin) before they transitioned to heroin.  
  • They were cocaine users and tried heroin to help them "come down" or sleep after a cocaine binge.

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SOURCE Robert Crown Center for Health Education
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