Patterns of Prescription Opioid Use Prior to Self-reported Heroin Initiation

Daniel M. Hartung, Jonah Geddes, Kirbee A. Johnston, Gillian Leichtling, Sara Hallvik, Christi Hildebran, P. Todd Korthuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives:To determine the association between self-reported heroin initiation and patterns of prescription opioid use.Methods:Using linked Oregon Medicaid, prescription drug monitoring program, and Treatment Episodes Data Set data, we conducted a case-control study of individuals reporting heroin initiation between 2015 and 2017 during treatment intake. Prescription drug monitoring program data provided prescription opioid use patterns, including long-term prescription opioid therapy, in the year before self-reported heroin initiation. Four controls were matched to each case on aggregate prescription opioid use and demographics.Results:About half (49%) of individuals who reported heroin initiation filled an opioid in the year before initiation. Individuals who initiated heroin (n = 306) were more likely to receive prescriptions from multiple prescribers (24% vs 18%, P = 0.007) and pharmacies (12% vs 5%, P < 0.001) compared with matched controls (n = 1224). Long-term opioid therapy (13% vs 14%, P = 0.74) was uncommon and did not differ between groups.Conclusions:Although prescription opioid use commonly preceded self-reported heroin initiation, long-term opioid therapy was not common. Although this study did not find an association between opioid discontinuation and heroin initiation, sample size and follow-up limitations preclude definitive conclusions. Efforts to limit prescription opioids should continue to evaluate for unintended harms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-133
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of addiction medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • heroin
  • opioid use disorder
  • prescription opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns of Prescription Opioid Use Prior to Self-reported Heroin Initiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this