*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
Nearly one-third of students who reported misusing prescription opioids as high school seniors between 1997 and 2000, but did not have a history of medical use, later used heroin by age 35, according to a University of Michigan study.
The research also found that 21% of seniors in the same period, who misused prescription opioids and later received an opioid prescription, went on to use heroin by age 35, said lead researcher Sean Esteban McCabe, professor, and director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the U-M School of Nursing.
Researchers focused on 25 cohorts of high school seniors between 1976 and 2000, following them from age 18 to age 35. They used data from 11,012 individuals from the national Monitoring the Future study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Unlike earlier cohorts, individuals from the 1997-2000 cohorts who reported prescription opioid misuse had a dramatically increased risk for later heroin use, compared to students who didn't misuse prescription opioids. The 1997-2000 cohorts included 1,059 individuals.
The researchers were surprised by the large uptick in heroin use among the more recent cohorts, and the findings partially explain why opioid overdoses have skyrocketed.