(HealthDay News) – The rate of heroin initiation is much higher among those who have previously used non-medical pain relievers (NMPR), although only a small percentage of those using NMPRs actually progress to heroin use, according to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Pradip K. Muhuri, PhD, from SAMHSA in Rockville, MD, and colleagues examined recent trends in heroin initiation among individuals aged 12–49 years, including the role of non-medical prescription pain reliever use. Data were obtained from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2002–2011.

The researchers found that the rate of heroin incidence in the preceding 12 months was 19 times higher for those with prior NMPR use (0.39%) vs. those without NMPR use (0.02%). For those who reported prior heroin use, the recent NMPR incidence rate was almost two-fold higher (2.8%) than for those not reporting prior heroin use (1.6%). Most heroin initiates (79.5%) previously used NMPR, while prior heroin use was reported by only 1% of NMPR users. However, most NMPR users did not progress to heroin use; only 3.6% of NMPR initiates progressed to heroin use within five years of first NMPR use.

“The study contributes important new data to improve understanding of the role of prior NMPR use in initiation of heroin use in the U.S. general population,” the authors write.

More Information