What are the age-related predilections of opioid abuse?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Illicit use of opioids usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs generally precedes experimentation with opioids. The period of time from initial use to dependency is extremely variable, ranging from a few weeks to several years.

A study that examined 30-year trajectories of heroin among men and women who were in methadone maintenance treatment in California in the late 1970s found that more school problems and earlier age at onset of heroin use and first arrest were associated with more persistent heroin use. [24]

In 2017, researchers, using data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, looked at patients who entered the ED for any reason and selected all patients up to 21 years old who had opioid dependence and abuse codes. Total number of visits meeting the criteria was 257,165. Findings show that 88.3% of ED visits were made by individuals aged 18 to 21 years and 8.4% were made by teens aged 16 to 17 years. [25]

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