Non-medical Prescription Pain Killers a Gateway Drug to Heroin Abuse for Whites?

NEW YORK – The risk of heroin-related behaviors is higher among whites who used non-medical prescription opioids such as oxycontin in prior years, according to researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The findings were race-specific, researchers said, with the most significant abuse being found in Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites.

The findings were published online in the journal “Drug and Alcohol Dependence”.

Researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health with a nationally representative household sample of 67,500 people.

All were self-reported heroin users within the last 12 months.

The study looked at behavior pattern changes and frequency of use of prior-year non-prescription drug and heroin use between 2002-2005 and 2008-2011 across racial and ethnic groups.

While the frequency of non-medical opioid use increased for all races and ethnicities, it was particularly high for non-Hispanic whites.

The study author’s conclude “Overall, our results suggest a connection between opioid and heroin use and heroin-related adverse outcomes at the population level, implying that frequent non-medical users of prescription opioids, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be the focus of public health efforts to prevent and mitigate the harms of heroin use.”

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