Background and aims: In the United States, the availability of prescription opioids has decreased in recent years. Whether there have been corresponding changes in the likelihood of people with prescription opioid use disorder (POUD) to engage in illegal behaviors related to drug use remains unknown. We examined changes in prevalence of illegal behaviors between people with and without POUD over time, and how transactions for obtaining opioids have changed among people with POUD over time.
Design: Temporal trend analysis of repeated cross-sectional data.
Setting: United States household dwelling population from all 50 states and District of Columbia.
Participants: Adult subsamples from the 2002-14 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (n = 5393 people with POUD; n = 486 768 people without POUD).
Measurements: Outcome variables were selected illegal behaviors and sources of opioids used non-medically. POUD was defined using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, criteria. Time was treated as a continuous variable. The variable of interest for each illegal behavior analysis was the interaction between POUD diagnosis and time. Covariates included age, sex and race/ethnicity.
Findings: During the 13-year period examined, the adjusted interaction odds ratio (AIOR) describing the change in association between POUD and selling illicit drugs increased by a factor of 2.41 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.56-3.71, P < 0.001]. Similar trends were noted for stealing (AIOR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.31-3.44, P = 0.002) and for life-time history of arrest (AIOR = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.06-2.19, P = 0.021). People with POUD became less likely to receive opioids for free from friends and family [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.42, 95% CI = 0.25-0.71, P = 0.001] and more likely to buy them from friends and family (AOR = 3.29, 95% CI = 1.76-6.13, P < 0.001) from 2005 to 2014.
Conclusions: In the United States, against a backdrop of a decreasing prescription opioid supply, rates of some crimes potentially related to drug use increased among people with prescription opioid use disorder compared with those without prescription opioid use disorder from 2002 to 2014.
Keywords: Crime; drug policy; illegal behavior; non-medical opioid source; opioid use disorder; prescription opioid use disorder.
© 2019 Society for the Study of Addiction.