Online Program

Comparing the Characteristics of U.S. Adult Heroin Users and Prescription Opioid Misusers

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Khary Rigg, Ph.D., Department of Mental Health Law & Policy, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Shannon Monnat, Ph.D., Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Prescription painkiller misuse (PPM) is a major public health problem in the United States (U.S.). PPM has been on the rise for nearly two decades and has become an economic burden of over $55 billion. However, as prescribing practices have tightened and painkillers have become more difficult to find or too expensive to purchase, many users have turned to heroin as a substitute to painkillers. This trend suggests that the profile of heroin users has likely changed over the past several years. Understanding the characteristics of these different groups of opiate users and the outcomes associated with each drug is important to properly tailor public health interventions. Accordingly, this study compared the demographic, socioeconomic, criminal justice, clinical, and drug use characteristics between heroin-only, PPM-only, and mixed PPM and heroin users using nationally representative data. Data are drawn from the 2010-2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Our results show that important differences between the three user groups exist, but most importantly that the combined heroin and PPM group looks most different from the other two groups. In particular, their poorer mental health and higher odds of poly- and injection drug use call for targeted interventions. The heroin and PPM group is a young, white, male, unmarried population with mostly high school diplomas who are likely to be engaged in part-time work or be unemployed, have substantial criminal justice involvement, and high health care service utilization. Overall, these differences suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to opiate treatment and prevention is not likely to succeed and that interventions need to account for the unique needs of these user groups. We also discuss opportunities and challenges for targeted interventions.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe trends in heroin use and prescription opioid misuse Compare the psychosocial characteristics of heroin and prescription opioid misusers List the reasons why interventions must be tailored to the unique needs of different types of opiate users

Keyword(s): Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Prevention and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have completed a Ph.D. in medical sociology and a post-doctoral fellowship in health services research. I have worked on 5 NIDA (RO1) funded projects, published widely in peer-reviewed journals, and am currently an Assistant Professor of Mental Health Law & Policy at University of South Florida.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.