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Heroin Use and Drug Injection among Youth Also Misusing Prescription Drugs

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Objectives: We identified the prevalence of nonmedical prescription drug use and its relationship to heroin and injection drug use in 4 nationally representative samples of adolescents. Methods: We used the most recent data (2009-2015) from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Ntotal= 61,132). Prevalence rates and 95% confidence intervals for prescription drug misuse, heroin use, and injection drug use were calculated across time points, sex, and race/ethnicity subgroups. Using odds ratios, we determined the likelihood of youth reporting nonmedical prescription drug use also reporting heroin and drug injection. Results: In 2015, one in 6 adolescents reported recent prescription drug misuse. High rates of nonmedical prescription drug use persisted or increased among Hispanic boys, black boys, and "other" youth, while declining among white youth. Youth who used prescription drugs nonmedically at least once were 17.5 times more likely to have used heroin (CI: 13.7, 22.4) and 14.6 times more likely to have injected drugs (CI: 11.2, 19.2) in their lifetime. Conclusions: Public health programming focused on reducing prescription drug misuse also may reduce youth engagement in heroin and/or injection drug use. Preventive efforts to support communities of color in reducing rates of prescription drug misuse are crucial.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA 2: Department of Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, USA 3: National Development and Research Institutes, Incorporated, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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