A new study finds heroin use among people who abuse prescription opioids has risen, particularly among whites.
From 2008 to 2011, the study found a 75 percent increase in heroin use among whites who abuse painkillers such as OxyContin or Vicodin, HealthDay reports.
Researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from 67,500 people who answered questions about their heroin use.
“Individuals tend to use prescription opioids as a substitute for heroin when heroin is unavailable, to augment a heroin-induced ‘high,’ to ‘treat’ withdrawal symptoms, and to curb heroin use,” lead researcher Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, noted in a news release.
The study found that except for Hispanics, anyone who used prescription painkillers frequently was at increased risk of ever injecting heroin, as well as abusing or being dependent on heroin in the past year. “This is alarming and raises concern since injection drug use among prescription opioid users can contribute to the spread of HIV . . . as well as of hepatitis C,” Martins concluded.
The study appears in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.