Do painkillers serve as “hillbilly heroin” for rural adults with high levels of psychosocial stress?

Pamela Black, Helen M. Hendy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nonmedical use of painkillers has increased in recent years, with some authors suggesting that painkillers serve as “hillbilly heroin”: a drug chosen by rural adults to cope with psychosocial stresses in their lives. The present study compared rural and urban adults for their reported use of 5 drugs during the past year (painkillers, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin) and for associations between these 5 drugs and their reported psychosocial stressors. This study conducted secondary analyses of anonymous survey data provided by the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health with responses from 8,699 rural and 18,481 urban adults. The survey included demographics (gender, age, race, education, marital status, family income), reports of whether participants had used each of 5 illicit drugs during the past year, and measures of psychological distress and social functioning problems. Controlling for demographics, rural adults showed no greater prevalence of painkiller use than urban adults, but rural adults were more likely than urban adults to use methamphetamine and less likely to use marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Controlling for demographics, rural adults showed no associations between psychological or social stressors and the use of painkillers, but such stressors were significantly associated with the use of marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin. Urban adults showed significant associations of psychological and social stressors with the use of painkillers, as well as with the use of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Results suggest that painkillers are unlikely to serve as “hillbilly heroin” for rural adults, but they may serve as “big-city heroin” for urban adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-236
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)

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