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Prescription Drug Abuse - Oxycodone

Much attention has been given to the increasing prescription drug abuse with oxycodone in the United States.

This trend has been examined in both adults and adolescents. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks persons aged 12 or older to report on their use of prescription-type drugs. The survey also asks respondents about their use of illicit drugs, including heroin. Respondents who reported past year substance use were also asked to report symptoms of dependence or prescription drug abuse of the prescription painkiller, Oxycodone. Symptoms as recurrent drug abuse of Oxycodone results in adverse effects on physical and emotional health, trouble with the law due to substance use, increased tolerance to the substance, and giving up or reducing other important activities in favor of substance use.

NSDUH collects data on the lifetime use of specific pain relievers, including the prescription painkiller oxycodone, and the lifetime use of heroin. Although both oxycodone and heroin are classified as "opiates," their reported lifetime prevalence of use is significantly different. The prevalence of lifetime use of oxycodone increased significantly from 2002 to 2003, while the prevalence of lifetime heroin use remained stable. This report focuses on the characteristics of respondents reporting oxycodone use and respondents reporting heroin use. To clarify the distinctions, findings are examined across three categories: lifetime heroin and oxycodone users (persons using both heroin and oxycodone in their lifetime), lifetime heroin-only users (persons using heroin but not oxycodone in their lifetime), and lifetime oxycodone-only users (persons using oxycodone but not heroin in their lifetime).  All estimates are annual averages based on combined 2002 and 2003 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) data.

 
Prevalence of the Prescription Drug Abuse of the Painkiller Oxycodone and Heroin 

In 2002 and 2003, an estimated 1.7 million Americans (less than 1 percent of persons aged 12 or older) had used heroin at least once in their lifetime and had also used oxycodone at least once in their lifetime. Among persons aged 12 or older, an estimated 1.9 million (0.8 percent) had used heroin at least once in their lifetime, but had never used oxycodone. An estimated 11.0 million (4.6 percent) had used oxycodone at least once in their lifetime, but had never used heroin.

Changes in Lifetime Prevalence of Oxycodone and Heroin Use

The prevalence of lifetime use of oxycodone increased significantly from an estimated 11.8 million users (5.0 percent) in 2002 to 13.7 million users (5.8 percent) in 2003. The estimated prevalence of lifetime heroin use from 2002 to 2003 did not change (1.6 percent).

Demographic Characteristics For Prescription Drug Abuse of Oxycodone

Male-to-female ratios for lifetime heroin-only users and lifetime heroin and oxycodone users were similar. However, lifetime oxycodone-only users had a greater percentage of females (43.7 percent) than either of the other two groups. In terms of racial/ethnic breakdown, the lifetime oxycodone-only users and lifetime heroin and oxycodone users were similarly distributed. Both groups were predominantly white (91.3 and 90.6 percent, respectively), with a small percentage of Blacks or African Americans (4.9 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively) and an even smaller percentage of other races/ethnicities (3.8 and 3.5 percent, respectively). The proportion of racial/ethnic groups among lifetime heroin-only users showed a lower percentage of whites (65.7 percent) and a larger percentage of blacks (26.8 percent) and other races/ethnicities (7.5 percent) than among the other two groups. An examination of the current age of lifetime users showed some similarities between lifetime heroin-only users and lifetime heroin and oxycodone users. Both groups contained a greater percentage of persons aged 35 or older (74.0 percent and 63.5 percent, respectively).  More lifetime oxycodone-only users were aged 12 to 34 (56.6 percent) than aged 35 or older (43.4 percent).  A greater proportion of lifetime heroin-only users reported a past year family income of less than $20,000 (31.5 percent) than did either the lifetime oxycodone-only users (19.7 percent) or lifetime heroin and oxycodone users (24.9 percent).

Past Year Prescription Drug Abuse ? Oxycodone  
 
Among lifetime heroin and oxycodone users, 16.1 percent met the diagnostic criteria for heroin or prescription drug abuse during the past year. Four percent of lifetime heroin-only users qualified for heroin dependence or abuse in the past year. Among lifetime oxycodone-only users, 7.2 percent met the criteria for dependence or prescription drug abuse of oxycodone during the past year.

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