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Non-medical use of prescription opioids is associated with heroin initiation among US veterans: a prospective cohort study.

Banerjee G, Edelman EJ, Barry DT, Becker WC, Cerdá M, Crystal S, Gaither JR, Gordon AJ, Gordon KS, Kerns RD, Martins SS, Fiellin DA, Marshall BD. Non-medical use of prescription opioids is associated with heroin initiation among US veterans: a prospective cohort study. Addiction (Abingdon, England). 2016 Nov 1; 111(11):2021-2031.

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AIMS: To estimate the influence of non-medical use of prescription opioids (NMUPO) on heroin initiation among US veterans receiving medical care. DESIGN: Using a multivariable Cox regression model, we analyzed data from a prospective, multi-site, observational study of HIV-infected and an age/race/site-matched control group of HIV-uninfected veterans in care in the United States. Approximately annual behavioral assessments were conducted and contained self-reported measures of NMUPO and heroin use. SETTING: Veterans Health Administration (VHA) infectious disease and primary care clinics in Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 3396 HIV-infected and uninfected patients enrolled into the Veterans Aging Cohort Study who reported no life-time NMUPO or heroin use, had no opioid use disorder diagnoses at baseline and who were followed between 2002 and 2012. MEASUREMENTS: The primary outcome measure was self-reported incident heroin use and the primary exposure of interest was new-onset NMUPO. Our final model was adjusted for socio-demographics, pain interference, prior diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder and/or depression and self-reported other substance use. FINDINGS: Using a multivariable Cox regression model, we found that non-medical use of prescription opioids NMUPO was associated positively and independently with heroin initiation [adjusted hazard ratio (AHR)  =  5.43, 95% confidence interval (CI)  =  4.01, 7.35]. CONCLUSIONS: New-onset non-medical use of prescription opioids (NMUPO) is a strong risk factor for heroin initiation among HIV-infected and uninfected veterans in the United States who reported no previous history of NMUPO or illicit opioid use.

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