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Sports involvement and injury history associated with non-medical use of prescription opioids among college students

A small number of studies have shown that adolescents involved in competitive sports are more likely to report non-medical use of prescription opioids (NUPO). Building on previous research, a new study examined the relationship between athlete status, injury history, and NUPO among college students. Participants (N = 320,412) were respondents of the 2008-2011 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA II) and were between the ages of 18 to 30 years. The survey included questions regarding demographics, the non-medical use of prescription opioids, participation in college athletics at the varsity level, the physical health of respondents and health problems including injuries. The authors used multiple logistic regression models to examine the individual, and combined, effects of sex, athlete status, and injury history on NUPO. Results showed that 8% of respondents indicated being a varsity athlete during the past year, 17.4% reported an injury during the past year and 8.3% indicated NUPO during the past year. Furthermore, with respect to the individual effects, participation in varsity athletes was associated with greater odds of both NUPO and injury (p < .001) in comparison to non-athletes. Moreover, the odds of NUPO and having sustained an injury during the past year is approximately two times higher when compared to respondents who either did not engage in NUPO or did not sustain an injury during the past year (p < .001). In addition, odds ratios assessing the association of NUPO by sex, athletic status, and injury during the past year revealed that male athletes have the highest odds of NUPO when compared to female athletes, male non-athletes, and female non-athletes. Similarly, injured athletes have the highest odds of NUPO when compared to athletes who were not injured, injured non-athletes, and non-athletes who were not injured. Lastly, injured male athletes have the highest odds of NUPO when compared to injured female athletes, injured male non-athletes, injured female non-athletes, male athletes who were not injured, female athletes who were not injured, male non-athletes who were not injured, and female non-athletes who were not injured.

Take away: This study found that having an injury, being a varsity athlete, and being male were all significantly associated with NUPO. Combining these factors together showed that male athletes, athletes with injuries, and male athletes with injuries were at the greatest risk for NUPO.

Ford, J. A., Pomykacz, C., Veliz, P., McCabe, S. E., & Boyd, C. J. (2018). Sports involvement, injury history, and non‐medical use of prescription opioids among college students: An analysis with a national sample. The American Journal on Addictions.

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