Prior Substance Abuse Linked to Opioid Abuse in Young Men

(HealthDay News) – Any prior substance abuse is associated with current abuse of prescription opioids among 18- to 25-year-old men, but only previous marijuana use correlates with subsequent prescription opioid abuse in young women.

To explore the association between alcohol, cigarette, and/or marijuana use during adolescence and subsequent prescription opioid abuse, Lynn E. Fiellin, MD, from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, and colleagues analyzed data from 6,496 community-dwelling individuals, aged 18–25 years, participating in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2006–2008).

The researchers found that current abuse of prescription opioids was reported by 12% of the study population. The prevalence of prior substance abuse was 57, 56, and 34%, respectively, for alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. For young men, but not young women, prior alcohol use correlated with the subsequent abuse of prescription opioids. Compared with no prior marijuana use, prior marijuana use increased the likelihood of subsequent abuse of prescription opioids 2.5-fold in both men and women. In young boys, all prior substance abuse (alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana) correlated with an increased likelihood of subsequent abuse of prescription opioids during young adulthood, whereas for young girls there was only an association with prior marijuana use.

“Prevention efforts targeting early substance abuse may help to curb the abuse of prescription opioids,” the authors write.

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