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"Stories of starting": Understanding the complex contexts of opioid misuse initiation.

Spencer NE, Taubenberger SP, Roberto R, Krishnamurti LS, Chang JC, Hacker K. "Stories of starting": Understanding the complex contexts of opioid misuse initiation. Substance Abuse. 2021 Feb 22; 1-16.

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The impacts of opioid use disorder and opioid-involved overdose are known, but less is known about the contexts in which people first misuse opioids, and the motivations for continued misuse. In-depth interviews with 26 individuals in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania with current or past histories of opioid misuse were conducted. Narratives were analyzed to understand the circumstances and influences contributing to initial and continued misuse of opioids. Participants described social and familial contexts that normalized or accepted opioid misuse-this often included their own use of other illicit substances prior to initiating opioids. Participants also described initial use of opioids as related to efforts to cope with physical pain. They also described recognizing and then seeking psychological/emotional benefits from opioids. All three of these themes often overlapped and intersected in these stories of starting opioid misuse. Opioid misuse stemmed from complex interacting influences involving coping with physical and psychological pain, perception that opioids are needed to feel "normal", and acceptance or normalization of opioid use. This suggests a multi-pronged approach to both prevention and treatment are needed.

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