A new study shows that veterans who misuse narcotic painkillers might be at a higher risk of using heroin. As a result, the authors of the research recommend that health care providers who assist veterans should observe closely for signs of non-medical use of opioid painkillers.
The study which lasted for ten years was conducted on around 3,400 military veterans. During this period, 500 of them started using heroin. Of those, 77 percent were found to have misused opioid painkillers before they began using heroin.
Even after analyzing other risks such as income, race, use of other drugs, and PTSD or depression, researchers concluded that the veterans that misused painkillers were 5.4 times more inclined to start using heroin.
Geetanjoli Banerjee, a graduate student in Marshall’s investigation group at Brown, has studied along with several colleagues at Yale University a subset of participants in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). This study has followed more than 7,000 HIV-infected and comparable uninfected veterans engaged in care at nine Veterans Affairs facilities around the country.
They tried to discover how psychiatric disease, alcohol use, as well as other medical conditions could influence the clinical outcomes in HIV infection. However, the study is not believed to be a correctly representative example of all veterans.
Their findings confirm a pattern of shifting from non-medical use of prescription opioids to heroin use that has only been displayed in select groups.
Although none of the veterans in the new examination stated misusing opioids earlier, a total of 1,416 had started non-medical usage of opioid painkillers by 2012. Of the 500 veterans in the study who started using heroin, 386 had also begun using prescription painkillers non-medically.
The non-medical use of opioid painkillers seemed to be the best predictor for the data of who started to use heroin.
Other sociodemographic risk factors, controlling for all others, were being black (2-fold risk) or being male (2.6-fold risk). Abusing stimulant drugs (versus not doing so) was associated with a 2.1-fold risk of using heroin.
Researchers must now try to find out how does the use of non-medical opioid painkiller influence heroin use and what must be done to prevent the abuse of such medicine.
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