A new study profiles drug use among young adults in the two largest cities in America, finding that using prescription drugs and illicit drugs at the same time was common.
Experts say that this is the first study to compare patterns of prescription and illicit drug misuse among high-risk young adults who are already misusing prescription drugs.
Stephen Lankenau, Ph.D., associate professor at Drexel and principal investigator, and colleagues suggest that drug treatment providers should be aware of this pattern of drug use to treat their clients more effectively.
Lankenau and colleagues interviewed 596 young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 who had misused prescription drugs within the previous 90 days.
The study included interviews with three high-risk groups of young adults: injection drug users (IDUs), homeless persons and polydrug users (users who combine drugs during a drug-using event).
Researchers discovered drug users tended to use an illicit drug that provided a similar effect as the prescription drug they were already misusing.
The two cities also provided contrasting drug markets, which influenced the types of drugs misused. New York participants more frequently misused oxycodone, heroin and cocaine, while Los Angeles participants more frequently misused codeine, marijuana and methamphetamine.
The research findings confirm earlier studies by Lankenau and colleagues suggesting that the pathway to drug misuse begins with misuse of prescription opioids followed by the use of injected drugs.
The report was recently published in the Journal of Public Health Research.