UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Nonmedical prescription opioid use and illegal drug use: initiation trajectory and related risks among people who use illegal drugs in Vancouver, Canada Cheng, Tessa; Small, Will; Nosova, Ekaterina; Hogg, Robert S.; Hayashi, Kanna; Kerr, Thomas; DeBeck, Kora


Objective: We investigated the prevalence of and risk factors associated with initiating nonmedical prescription opioid use (NMPOU) before and after illegal drugs using data from two linked cohort studies of street youth and adults who use illegal drugs in Vancouver, Canada. All participants who attended a study visit between 2013 and 2016 were eligible for the primary analyses. Results: Among 512 youth and 833 adult participants, the prevalence of NMPOU was extremely high (88% among street youth; 90% among adults), and over one-third of those who reported engaging in NMPOU had initiated NMPOU before illegal drug use (vs. transitioning from illegal drugs to NMPOU). Participants who reported either transitioning to or from NMPOU had higher risk profiles, particularly related to substance use, when compared with those who reported never engaging in NMPOU. Sub-analyses restricted to only those who engaged in NMPOU found few statistically significant differences between those who initiated NMPOU prior to illegal drugs versus those who initiated illegal drugs prior to NMPOU. Findings suggest that among people who use illegal drugs, early NMPOU trajectories do not appear to critically shape future patterns and practices.

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