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Keywords:

  • pharmaceutical opioid;
  • oxycodone;
  • heroin;
  • transition;
  • injecting

Abstract

Introduction and Aims

The non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids is associated with a range of negative health consequences, including the development of dependence, emergency room presentations and overdose deaths.

Design and Methods

Drawing on life history data from a broader qualitative study of the non-medical use of painkillers, this brief report presents two cases of transitions from recreational or non-medical pharmaceutical opioid use to intravenous heroin use by young adults in Australia.

Results

Although our study was not designed to assess whether recreational oxycodone use is causally linked to transitions to intravenous use, polyopioid use places individuals at high risk for progression to heroin and injecting. Our first case, Jake, used a range of analgesics before he transitioned to intravenous use, and the first drug he injected was methadone. Our second case, Emma, engaged in a broad spectrum of polydrug use, involving a range of opioid preparations, as well as benzodiazepines, cannabis and alcohol. Both cases transitioned from oral to intravenous pharmaceutical opioids use and subsequent intravenous heroin use.

Discussion and Conclusions

These cases represent the first documented reports of transitions from the non-medical or recreational use of oxycodone to intravenous heroin use in Australia. As such, they represent an important starting point for the examination of pharmaceutical opioids as a pathway to injecting drug use among young Australians and highlight the need for further research designed to identify pharmaceutical opioids users at risk of transitions to injecting and to develop interventions designed to prevent or delay these transitions. [Dertadian G, Maher L. From oxycodone to heroin: Two cases of transitioning opioid use in young Australians. Drug Alcohol Rev 2014;33:102–104]