July 13, 2021 – Opioid misuse and overdoses are a major problem in the United States. One factor that may be leading to the rate of heroin dependence is the growing population of youth with a history of nonmedical use of prescription opioids. However, there is a paucity in research examining the association between the prospective use of medical and nonmedical opioid misuse during adolescence, and future heroin use in adulthood.

This quantitative study analyzed self-reported responses about drug use from 11,012 adolescents over 17 years in the national Monitoring the Future study. Adolescents in 12thgrade from 25 cohorts spanning 1976-2000 who provided at least 1 wave of follow-up data (at the age of 30 and/or 35) were included. Participants were divided into five different categories based on opioid usage at the age of 18: 1) no lifetime exposure (control group); 2) medical prescription use; 3) medical use followed by nonmedical misuse; 4) nonmedical misuse followed by medical use; 5) nonmedical misuse only. Participants who reported lifetime heroin use at 18 were excluded.  Primary outcome assessed for any heroin use through age 35.