Heroin Use Spikes Among Those Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at the frequency of nonmedical prescription opioid use and the risk of heroin-related behaviors and found that past-year heroin use rose among individuals taking opioids like oxycontin, and these increases varied by race and ethnicity. 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% in 2008-2011 compared to earlier years.

Findings are published in a sad closed-science way even though funding was provided by National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health (grants K01DA030449, R03DA037770, and R01DA037866) the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (grant HD020667) and Columbia University. I suggest you contact those organizations or Columbia if you want to see what the findings are. They need to learn blocking access to scientific research is wrong and they shouldn’t fund such activity.

Nonmedical prescription opioid use is defined as using a substance that is not prescribed or taking a drug only for the experience or the feeling it caused.

Using 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 study also looked at the association between past year frequency of both, heroin-related risk behaviors, and exposure to heroin availability.


In 2008-2011, the risk of past-year heroin use, ever injecting heroin, past-year heroin abuse or dependence, and the perception of availability of heroin increased as the frequency of nonmedical opioid use increased for all race and ethnicities, but particularly for non-Hispanic Whites.

Silvia Martins, who led the research said “The individuals tend to use prescription opioids as a substitute for heroin when heroin is unavailable, to augment a heroin-induced ‘high,’ to ‘treat’ withdrawal symptoms, and to curb heroin use.”

“The noteworthy increase in the annual rate of heroin abuse or dependence among non-Hispanic Whites parallels the significant increase in nonmedical opioid use during the last decade and the growing number of heroin overdose deaths described for this race and ethnic group in recent years,” said Martins. “Overall, our results suggest a connection between opioid and heroin use and heroin-related adverse outcomes at the population level, implying that frequent nonmedical 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.”

See full press release

Related: Prescription Painkillers Kill More Every Year in USA than Heroin and Cocaine CombinedPrescription Drug Abuse in the USA (2004 study)Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller AddictionThe Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of Heroin

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