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Key characteristics and habits of the recreational opioid user

Anna Schinas, MSc, Shein Nanji, BSc, Kira Vorobej, MSc, Catherine Mills, MSc, Dawn Govier, BSc, Beatrice Setnik, PhD


Objective: To identify key characteristics and habits of recreational opioid users.

Design: The data were compiled from volunteers who participated in clinical studies at a contract research organization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Interventions: Data were collected from 5,018 male and female recreational opioid users via telephone and face-to-face screening interviews. Five recreational opioid users participated in a live interview broadcast on the internet.

Main outcome measures: Demographic data, recreational drug use history, routes of recreational drug administration, alcohol use, and smoking status. A subset of the demographic information and recreational drug use history was summarized separately using data collected between 2013 and 2016 from 114 recreational opioid users who were not dependent on opioids. Interview excerpts were included from five recreational opioid users who described their real-world experiences with drug abuse, including the impact of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations on their drug abuse behavior.

Results: The preferred route of administration of opioids was oral (52 percent), followed by intranasal (36 percent), intravenous (10 percent), and buccal (chewing on a patch; 2 percent). Other substances used included nicotine, alcohol, and non-opioid psychoactive drugs (primarily cannabis). Oxycodone was the most frequently reported opioid of abuse.

Conclusions: Recreational opioid users have distinct drug-related behaviors and preferences. Monitoring current trends and examining these behaviors is an important component to understand the potential safety risks associated with recreational opioid use.


opioid, recreational drug user, human abuse potential, drug abuse history, abuse-deterrent formulation

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