Home > Pathways to opioid use and implications for prevention: voices of young adults in recovery.

Ballard, Parissa J and Arnold, Taylor J and Vidrascu, Elena M and Hernandez, Guadalupe C and Ozer, Emily and Wolfson, Mark and Lassiter, Rebekah and Nayyar, Himani and Daniel, Stephanie S (2024) Pathways to opioid use and implications for prevention: voices of young adults in recovery. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 19, (1), 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-023-00584-5.

External website: https://substanceabusepolicy.biomedcentral.com/art...

BACKGROUND Opioid use remains a major public health issue, especially among young adults. Despite investment in harm reduction and supply-side strategies such as reducing overprescribing and safe medication disposal, little is known about demand-side issues, such as reasons for use and pathways to opioid use. Adolescents and young adults who struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD) are multifaceted individuals with varied individual histories, experiences, challenges, skills, relationships, and lives.

METHODS To inform the development of prevention strategies that hold promise for addressing opioid use, this study employs brief structured surveys and semi-structured in-depth interviews with 30 young adults (ages 18-29; 19 female, 23 White, 16 from Suburban areas) in recovery from OUD. For survey data, we used descriptive statistics to summarize the means and variance of retrospectively reported risk and protective factors associated with opioid use. For in-depth interview data, we used a combination of thematic analysis and codebook approaches to generate common themes and experiences shared by participants.

RESULTS Surveys revealed that the most endorsed risk factors pertained to emotions (emotional neglect and emotional abuse) followed by sexual abuse, physical abuse, and physical neglect. Themes generated from qualitative analyses reveal challenging experiences during adolescence, such as unaddressed mental health, social, and emotional needs, which were often reported as reasons for opioid initiation and use. Through surveys and interviews, we also identified positive assets, such as skills and social relationships that were present for many participants during adolescence.

CONCLUSION Implications include the need for universal prevention strategies that include emotion-focused interventions and supports alongside current harm reduction and environmental strategies to regulate prescriptions; the potential utility of more emotion-focused items being included on screening tools; and more voices of young people in recovery.

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