A minority of people who use illicit opioids indicated a preference for fentanyl, the super-potent synthetic opioid that accounts for much of the recent rise in U.S. overdose deaths, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The study, based on surveys of 308 people who use opioids in Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, found that 27 percent indicated a preference for opioids containing fentanyl, and that people who prefer fentanyl are more likely to be younger, white, and daily users. The median age of those who prefer fentanyl was 38 years compared to 45 years for those who don’t prefer fentanyl. Fifty-nine percent of fentanyl preferers identified as non-Hispanic white, compared to only 29 percent among the non-preferers.
The study, published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Independence, is thought to be the first to characterize fentanyl-preferring opioid users.
The opioid crisis has prompted public health researchers to consider how best to reduce these fatal overdoses. As part of that broad effort, Dr. Susan Sherman, the new study’s senior author and professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health, behavior and society, and collaborating researchers in 2017 initiated a study called FORECAST (Fentanyl Overdose Reduction Checking Analysis Study).
The new study, fielded in the summer of 2017, was based on the responses of 308 street users who said that they had used illicit opioids in the previous six months.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on September 27