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Gateway to Percocet?
Booze, pot, and tobacco are linked to prescription drug abuse.
Prescription opioid pain medications like Vicodin and
morphine are increasingly winding up in the hands of adolescents and young
adults whose names are not on the prescription. Now, a Yale study has found
that many abusers of these prescription drugs used tobacco, alcohol, or
marijuana earlier in life. The authors say their finding—like earlier studies
that found an association between marijuana use and later cocaine and heroin
abuse—lends support to the so-called gateway drug hypothesis: that the use of
“softer” substances today can lead to abuse of harder drugs down the road.
A team led by Lynn Fiellin, a physician and drug
addiction researcher at the School of Medicine, analyzed a sample of more than
55,000 18-to-25-year-olds who took part in the annual National Survey on Drug
Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2006 to 2008. Twelve percent of the participants
reported nonmedical abuse of prescription opioids. The researchers found that
57 percent of that group reported earlier use of alcohol, before taking opioids
recreationally; 56 percent, earlier use of tobacco; and 34 percent, earlier use
of marijuana. Among the men, using any of the three substances was associated
with later abuse of prescription opioids. Among the women, only early marijuana
use had a statistically significant link. Overall, those who had smoked as adolescents
were about 2.5 times more likely than those who hadn’t to report abuse of
opioids. (The study was published in September’s online edition of the Journal
of Adolescent Health.)