Initiation to Pharmaceutical Opioids and Patterns of Misuse: Preliminary Qualitative Findings Obtained by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network

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Pharmaceutical opioid misuse has been recognized as a growing public health problem across the nation. To develop appropriate treatment and prevention programs, the population of pharmaceutical opioid abusers has to be well understood. This exploratory study is based on qualitative interviews with 24 people in the Dayton/Columbus, Ohio, area. Interviews were conducted for the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network, a statewide epidemiological surveillance system. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 48 years; the majority was White and male. To explain initiation and continued use of pharmaceutical opioids, participants discussed a number of different reasons, including self-medication of emotional and physical pain, legitimate medical prescriptions related to chronic pain management, social influences, recreation, and easy access to pharmaceutical opioids. On the basis of participant age and lifetime experiences with pharmaceutical opioid and other drug misuse, six user groups were identified that faced unique risks and prevention/treatment challenges. Research implications are discussed.


Paper presented in an earlier form at The Society for Applied Anthropology's 65th Annual Meeting, Santa Fe, NM, April 5-10, 2005.