Objective: To identify meaningful classes of opioid-using military veterans in terms of self-reported opioid overdose risk behaviors.
Method: The study recruited a sample of 218 military veterans in the NYC area who were discharged from active duty service after September 11, 2001 and reported past-month opioid use. Survey data including measures of mental health, social stressors, substance use, and opioid-related overdose risk behaviors were analyzed using Latent Class Analysis (LCA).
Results: A five group solution had excellent fit scores and interpretability. Factor analysis confirmed the existence of two major dimensions of variation: non-adherence and heroin use. The five groups included lower-risk prescription opioid users, non-adherent prescription opioid users and heroin users. The non-adherent prescription opioid users and heroin user classes were both further subdivided into "occasional" and "regular" use categories. In addition to endorsing a greater number of overdose risk behaviors, users in the regular use classes were more likely to screen positive for alcohol and substance use disorders, reported greater self-medicating opioid use to relieve anxiety, reported greater problems with physical pain, were more likely to have had mental health, alcohol and drug treatment, and were less likely to be employed or in school. Heroin users also were less likely to report stable housing.
Conclusions: Findings indicate that opioid overdose risk classes are grounded in contextual factors related to experiences of psychological, physiological, and social adjustment pain and distress which should be addressed in tailored interventions targeting opioid users' unique constellations of risk behaviors and comorbid conditions.