Polysubstance Use Common Among High Schoolers Using Heroin

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Polysubstance Use Common Among High Schoolers Using Heroin

High school seniors who use heroin commonly use multiple other drugs – on average, five others, according to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers at the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU Meyers College of Nursing studied a nationally representative sample of more than 92,000 high school seniors, focusing on the 327 who reported using heroin in the past month. The goal: to determine how recent use and frequency of use of various drugs related to their current use of heroin.

Some of the findings:

  • Using heroin more often was linked to increased use of several other drugs more frequently, including other opioids and benzodiazepines.
  • The frequency of concurrent use of most drugs was markedly high among those who reported using heroin 10 to 39 times in the past month.
  • Alcohol was one of the most common drugs consumed among the heroin users and most levels of alcohol use were associated with lower odds of frequent heroin use.
  • Those who reported using heroin 40 or more times in the past month reported less concurrent use of other drugs.

Heroin-related deaths are on the rise in the U.S. and a large portion of heroin overdoses involve co-use of other drugs such as benzodiazepines (“benzos”) prescribed to treat anxiety. “The concurrent use of multiple drugs can exacerbate adverse health effects associated with heroin use such as overdose,” CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine, said in a statement. “A deeper understanding of how heroin users also currently use other drugs can help us to discern better prevention measures.”

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