Connection Between Prescription And Illegal Drug Use
The misuse of prescription drugs, and specifically prescription painkillers has become a problem that introduces new aspect to drug abuse treatment. Those who misuse painkillers may not fit the profile of a typical drug user. Even if the person does fit the profile, they may be mixing prescription drugs and illegal drugs to create dangerous side effects.
Those who provide treatment for substance abuse are in need of current information about the trends surrounding drug use and the combining of drugs to achieve different effects. The trends sometimes even differ by city and certain demographics, such as a person’s age.
A new study led by researchers at Drexel University School of Public Health offers new insight about the patterns of drug use among younger adults in two large cities. The report, titled “Misuse of Prescription and Illicit Drugs among High-Risk Adults” was based on findings gathered through interviews with drug users in Los Angeles and New York. The findings were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Public Health Research.
The researchers investigated patterns of drug use among high risk young adults. The participants in the study were all users of illicit drugs who also misuse prescription medications. Dr. Stephen Lankenau, associate professor at Drexel University explained that the information provided by the study is important for those who provide substance abuse treatment. This is the first study to compare the use of these types of drugs among high-risk young adults.
Over a two year period, Lankenau and colleagues conducted interviews with 596 individuals aged 16 to 25 in New York and Los Angeles. All of the participants had misused a prescription medication within the past three months.
The participants included three types of high-risk young adults. The interviews included injection drug users (IDUs), homeless persons and polydrug users. Polydrug users are those who attend drug-using gatherings where drugs are combined.
The analysis revealed that these high-risk young adults typically had a prescription for opioids, stimulants, and tranquilizers before they had misused the drugs. They also found that using illegal and prescription drugs together was a common practice in both of the cities. The users typically used illicit drugs to mimic an effect experienced in a prescription drug they were already abusing.
There was also a contrast noted between trends in the two cities. Those in New York more frequently used oxycodone, cocaine and heroin, while Los Angeles users preferred codeine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
This study follows previous research conducted by Lankenau in which the pathway to drug use was examined among high-risk young adults. The findings of this previous study showed that misuse of prescription drugs often led to using injected drugs.
The current study provides helpful information for those who provide substance abuse treatment. When patients enter treatment, it is important that healthcare providers understand that patients may be using a combination of different types of drugs.