The number of overdose deaths involving illicit opioids such as heroin and illicitly-manufactured fentanyl (IMF) is now higher than deaths involving prescription opioids. Adolescents misusing prescription opioids are more likely to use heroin. Although nonmedical use of prescription opioids (NUPO) among adolescents is decreasing, there is still relatively high prevalence of this behavior. Such high prevalence, along with the evolving epidemiology of the drug overdose epidemic as well as the association between NUPO and heroin use, signal that NUPO in adolescents is still an important issue. Understanding the interrelationships between NUPO and illicit opioid use in adolescents can inform prevention efforts. The purpose of this study is to: 1) present the magnitude of the drug overdose problem in adolescents, 2) compare the prevalence of heroin use and injection drug use (IDU) between students reporting NUPO and those not reporting NUPO, and 3) determine whether a dose-response relationship exists between these behaviors among adolescents. This information will be beneficial when focusing on adolescents at risk for heroin use by helping to determine whether any NUPO is associated with heroin use or if such risk is only noted at a higher frequency of NUPO behavior.
Objective: Given the evolving opioid overdose epidemic, we examined the interrelationships between nonmedical use of prescription opioids and illicit opioid use in adolescents.