Objectives: To study substance use and psychiatric disorders among prescription opioid users, heroin users, and nonopioid drug users in a national sample of adults.
Methods: Analyses of data from the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N = 43,093).
Results: Four groups were identified among 9140 illicit or nonprescribed drug users: heroin-other opioid users (1.0%; used heroin and other opioids), other opioid-only users (19.8%; used other opioids but never heroin), heroin-only users (0.5%; used heroin but never other opioids), and nonopioid drug users (78.7%; used drugs but never heroin or other opioids). After adjusting for variations in socioeconomic characteristics, history of substance abuse treatment, and familial substance abuse, heroin-other opioid users had greater odds of several substance use disorders (SUDs; cocaine, hallucinogen, sedative, amphetamine, and tranquilizer) when compared with the other groups; heroin-only users had reduced odds of sedative and tranquilizer use disorders when compared with other opioid-only users. Nonopioid drug users had reduced odds of all SUDs and other mental disorders (mood, anxiety, pathologic gambling, and personality) when compared with other opioid-only users. Past-year other opioid-only users also reported slightly lower scores on quality of life than past-year nonopioid drug users.
Conclusions: All opioid users had higher rates of SUDs than nonopioid drug users, and these rates were particularly increased among heroin-other opioid users. The findings suggest the need to distinguish between these 4 groups in research and treatment as they may have different natural histories and treatment needs.