The non-medical use of prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers, has been linked to many health and social problems. From theft to the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis through needle sharing and of course thousands of lives lost from overdose. However, another problem linked to the misuse of prescription opiates has recently been examined – sexual violence.
Researchers at New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research pulled together 164 participants that admitted to prescription drug abuse and examined their history with sexual violence. The results, which were published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, concluded that sexual violence is more likely for those that are abusing drugs, namely prescription opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin. This information is important because it gives healthcare workers another avenue of treatment for substance abusers.
According to the participants in the study, sexual violence oftentimes occurred when drugs were being given for free. Users were expected to return sexual favors in exchange for pills. There was also a high incidence of users being taken advantage of when they were unconscious or in a semi-conscious state under the influence of the drugs.
In a release issued by NYU, Principal Investigator Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, PhD was quoted as saying, “This suggests that prevention efforts should not only target the general public, but opioid and other drug users as well, with the message that sexual violence is never okay, regardless of how high a user might be. Our hope is that this work will contribute to the growing national conversation on sexual violence.”
The effects of the behavior surrounding substance abuse are far-reaching and can have a long-lasting negative impact. This information can and should be used when educating young people about substance abuse, because they usually don’t think about situations like this when they first consider abusing drugs.