MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Martins: The background for this study is former studies showing links between nonmedical use of prescription opioids and transition to heroin and other illegal substances, prescription opioid-related and heroin-related fatal overdoses . In addition, a particular public health concern is that the transition to heroin and further injecting heroin may increase the risk of bloodborne infections.
We used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a large nationally representative household sample of 67,500 people, and self-reported heroin use within the last 12 months, the researchers examined the change in patterns of past-year non-prescription drug and heroin use between 2002-2005 and 2008-2011 across racial and ethnic groups. The most significant rise in heroin use was among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, where the rate of heroin use for the latter group increased by 75 percent in 2008-2011 compared to earlier years. Regarding frequency of use, for Hispanics, increases were significant only among those using opioids about 1-29 days in the past year. Among blacks and whites, significant increases in the rate of heroin use were observed among those using prescription opioids more frequently (100-365 days) in the past year.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Martins: Clinicians, particularly pain clinic clinicians, psychiatrists and general practitioners, should always monitor prescription drug use patterns among their patients and alert them about the risks of nonmedical use.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Martins: More research is needed to better understand why these drug use transitions are occurring and what prevention strategies can curb not only nonmedical use but also transition to heroin use (and all risks associated with it) without jeopardizing access to these drugs to those that need them for legitimate medical conditions.
Silvia S. Martins, Julian Santaella-Tenorio, Brandon D.L. Marshall, Adriana Maldonado, Magdalena Cerd�. Racial/ethnic differences in trends in heroin use and heroin-related risk behaviors among nonmedical prescription opioid users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.03.020
MedicalResearch.com Interview withSilvia S. Martins, MD, PHD (2015). White Opioid Users Increasingly Hooked On Heroin