Drug Use Not Limited to Typical “Club” Drugs, NYU Study Finds

people dancing to music in a club
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One in 10 electronic dance music (EDM) party attendees have misused opioids in the past year, exceeding the national average, finds a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU Meyers College of Nursing.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggests that prevention and harm reduction efforts need to target this increasingly popular scene as efforts continue toward reducing the opioid crisis.

Opioid use has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States and has been a main contributor to a resurgence of heroin use, as well as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million Americans had misused prescription opioids, with 1.8 million meeting criteria for dependence or abuse.

“We’ve always known that electronic dance music party attendees are at high risk for use of club drugs such as ecstasy or Molly, but we wanted to know the extent of opioid use in this population,” said CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine.

Since the study was conducted specifically on EDM partygoers, the researchers note that the results may not apply to the general population, but, rather, highlight the need for prevention efforts in this high-risk group.

“This population of experienced drug users needs to be reached to prevent initiation and continued use, which can lead to riskier and more frequent use, dependence, and deleterious outcomes such as overdose – particularly if opioids are combined with other drugs,” Palamar said.

Throughout the summer of 2017, the researchers surveyed 954 individuals (ages 18 to 40) about to enter EDM parties at nightclubs and dance festivals in New York City. Attendees were asked about nonmedical use – defined as using in a manner which is not prescribed (such as to get high) – of 18 different opioids – including OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, fentanyl, and heroin.

The researchers found that almost a quarter (23.9 percent) of EDM party attendees have used opioids nonmedically in their lifetime and one out of 10 (9.8 percent) did so in the past year, which is higher than the national prevalence of past-year use of approximately 4 percent of adults 18 and older. Five percent of respondents reported misusing opioids in the past month.

OxyContin was the most highly reported opioid used in this scene, followed by Vicodin, Percocet, codeine, and Purple Drank, also known as Sizzurp or Lean (which typically contains codeine syrup). A smaller portion of users also snorted (15 percent) or injected opioids (11 percent) in the past year, which increases risk for overdose and dependence.

People who smoke cigarettes or use other drugs (including amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine) were more likely to report misusing opioids in the past month. In particular, nonmedical users of benzodiazepines such as Xanax were at high odds for also using opioids, and, on average, reported using more different opioid drugs in the past year than those who did not use opioids. While the study did not measure whether multiple drugs were used simultaneously, research has shown that users of benzodiazepines and prescription opioids commonly combine the drugs to enhance or come down from the effects of other drugs.

Previous opioid use predicted the likelihood of someone reporting willingness to use if offered in the future. Among non-users, 5.7 percent reported that they would take opioids if offered by a friend in the next month. However, among those who had taken opioids in the past year, almost three out of four (73.6 percent) reported they would be willing to use again.

Notably, almost nine out of 10 past-year users of Purple Drank indicated that they would use again if offered by a friend, although these findings on this cocktail may be limited. “While real Sizzurp, Lean, or Purple Drank contains codeine syrup, it is likely that many people consumed concoctions without codeine,” Palamar cautioned. However, the authors note that prevalence of opioid misuse did not change when removing this concoction from the list of opioids examined.

In addition to Palamar, study authors include Austin Le of NYU College of Dentistry and Charles M. Cleland of NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and CDUHR.

Research reported in this publication, “Nonmedical Opioid Use among Electronic Dance Music Party Attendees in New York City,” was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers K01DA038800 (PI: Palamar) and P30DA011041 (PI: Deren). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

The mission of the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) is to end the HIV and HCV epidemics in drug using populations and their communities by conducting transdisciplinary research and disseminating its findings to inform programmatic, policy, and grass roots initiatives at the local, state, national, and global levels. CDUHR is a Core Center of Excellence funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant #P30 DA011041).  It is the first center for the socio-behavioral study of substance use and HIV in the United States and is located at the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing. For more information, visit www.cduhr.org.

About NYU Langone Health
NYU Langone Health is a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, known for its excellence in clinical care, research, and education. Included in the 200+ locations throughout the New York area are five inpatient locations: Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute-care facility; Rusk Rehabilitation, ranked as one of the top 10 rehabilitation programs in the country; NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, a dedicated inpatient orthopedic hospital with all musculoskeletal specialties ranked top 10 in the country; Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children's health services; and NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, a full-service teaching hospital and level 1 trauma center located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Also part of NYU Langone Health is the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute–designated cancer center, and NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. For more information, go to nyulangone.org, and interact with us on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Instagram.

About the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing
NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. It offers a Bachelor of Science with a major in Nursing, a Master of Science and Post-Master’s Certificate Programs, a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in nursing research and theory development.

About NYU College of Dentistry
Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating nearly 10 percent of all dentists. NYU Dentistry has a significant global reach with a highly diverse student body. Visit http://dental.nyu.edu for more.

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