ISER Publication - Experiences of Opioid Use Initiation and Progression among Alaskans who Use Heroin
Prepared for Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention
The opioid epidemic has continued in Alaska and nationwide. Information about the types of opioids that are misused first, the age of first use, and the circumstances and mode of initial and progressive use of opioids can help to inform effective prevention and early intervention efforts. These topics were explored during interviews with adults in Alaska who use heroin for the Partnerships for Success project. Results indicate that most participants were exposed to opioids through a legitimate prescription in their teens to early twenties for a severe injury or multiple surgeries before developing an addiction. Some obtained prescription opioids for misuse initially from social sources such as a friend, at a party, or stealing them from a neighbor. Only two participants began their use of opioids with heroin. All participants eventually went on to use heroin which became cheaper, more effective, and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. Few participants indicated that social influences, rather than price or availability, were a factor in their transition to heroin. Recommendations and an overview of recent state prevention initiatives and policy efforts related to the findings are presented.