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System theory, Drugs -- Research -- United States, Opioid abuse, Opioid abuse -- Forecasting


Background: Recent increases in the nonmedical use of pharmaceutical opioids and the adverse outcomes associated with them have stimulated a large amount of research and data collection on this public health problem. Systematic organization of the available data sources is needed to facilitate ongoing research, analysis, and evaluation.

Method: A list of keywords associated with diversion, nonmedical use, and adverse outcomes of pharmaceutical opioid use generated 94 peer-reviewed academic articles and a number of governmental and nongovernmental sources. All sources were in English, contained quantitative data, and were published between January 1995 and April 2012. A list of 20 topics was developed independently by two researchers and differences were resolved through discussion. Sources were examined for relevance to each topic and categorized according to the scale which they were collected.

Results: The configuration of data indicates the diverse array of information currently available on the nonmedical use of pharmaceutical opioids in the US. Data appear relatively sparse regarding nonmedical polydrug use, availability of opioids via the black market, and mechanisms of opioid diversion, such as doctor shopping and forgery.

Conclusion: This index serves as a reference for researchers and policymakers who seek to further our understanding of the public health problems associated with pharmaceutical opioids and ameliorate associated adverse outcomes. Outlining the array of available data provides a global perspective and identifies topics that contain more and less quantitative information to guide our understanding and inform future research directions for the pharmaceutical opioid system in the US.


Poster presentation at the College on Problems of Drug Dependents, 75th Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA.

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