Young adults uninformed about opioid abuse risks

Researchers found that young people were unaware about the risks associated with prescription opioid abuse and call for better outreach strategies and overdose prevention programs.

Young adults unaware of health issues around prescription opioid abuse
Young adults unaware of health issues around prescription opioid abuse

HealthDay News -- Many young adult nonmedical prescription opioid (PO) users are relatively uninformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, according to researchers.

“Opioid-involved overdoses in the United States have dramatically increased in the last 15 years, largely due to a rise in prescription opioid use,” explained David Frank, of the City University of New York in New York City, and colleagues in The International Journal of Drug Policy. “Yet few studies have examined the overdose knowledge and experience of nonmedical PO users.”

To examine overdose knowledge and experience of nonmedical prescription opioid users, the investigators conducted semi-structured interviews with 46 participants aged 18 to 32 years who reported using prescription opioids nonmedically within the past 30 days. In an analytic process informed by grounded theory, verbatim interview transcripts were coded for key themes.

Participants were relatively uniformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, including naloxone use, despite having considerable experience with overdose (including overdose deaths), either personally or within opioid-using networks.

Multiple pharmaceuticals (often in combination with alcohol) or a transition to heroin injection were typical of overdose experiences. Participants did not self-identify as traditional heroin users, and were frequently not included in networks reached by traditional opioid safety/overdose prevention services. They were unlikely to use services for harm reduction, including syringe exchange programs.

"There is a pressing need to develop innovative outreach strategies and overdose prevention programs to better reach and serve young PO users and their network contacts," concluded the researchers.

References

  1. Frank D et al. The International Journal of Drug Policy. 2014; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.07.013
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