The prescription opioid epidemic: A review of qualitative studies on the progression from initial use to abuse

Theodore J. Cicero, Matthew S. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most research designed to answer the "why" of the prescription opioid epidemic has relied on structured interviews, which rigidly attempt to capture the complex reasons people use opioids. In contrast, this systematic literature review focuses on peer-reviewed studies that have used a qualitative approach to examine the development of an opioid-use disorder from the point of initial exposure. Rather than simply providing a "high," opioids reportedly relieve psychological/emotional problems or provide an escape from life stressors. As use continues, avoidance of withdrawal sickness becomes an overriding concern, with all other benefits playing minor roles in persistent use. These studies indicate that terms used in structured interviews, such as "nontherapeutic use" or variations thereof, poorly capture the complex range of needs opioids satisfy. Both quantitative/structured studies and more qualitative ones, as well as more focused studies, have an important role in better informing prevention and treatment efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Volume19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Keywords

  • Heroin use
  • Prescription opioid abuse
  • Progression of opioid use disorder
  • Qualitative data
  • Qualitative review

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