Summary: Researchers report 10 percent of people who have attended EDM events have misused opioids in the past 12 months. The number, researchers say, exceeds national averages. Oxycontin was reported to be the most widely misused drug within the scene.
One in 10 electronic dance music (EDM) party attendees have misused opioids in the past year, exceeding the national average, finds a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU Meyers College of Nursing.
The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggests that prevention and harm reduction efforts need to target this increasingly popular scene as efforts continue toward reducing the opioid crisis.
Opioid use has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States and has been a main contributor to a resurgence of heroin use, as well as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million Americans had misused prescription opioids, with 1.8 million meeting criteria for dependence or abuse.
“We’ve always known that electronic dance music party attendees are at high risk for use of club drugs such as ecstasy or Molly, but we wanted to know the extent of opioid use in this population,” said CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine.
Since the study was conducted specifically on EDM partygoers, the researchers note that the results may not apply to the general population, but, rather, highlight the need for prevention efforts in this high-risk group.
“This population of experienced drug users needs to be reached to prevent initiation and continued use, which can lead to riskier and more frequent use, dependence, and deleterious outcomes such as overdose – particularly if opioids are combined with other drugs,” Palamar said.
Throughout the summer of 2017, the researchers surveyed 954 individuals (ages 18 to 40) about to enter EDM parties at nightclubs and dance festivals in New York City. Attendees were asked about nonmedical use – defined as using in a manner which is not prescribed (such as to get high) – of 18 different opioids – including OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, fentanyl, and heroin.
The researchers found that almost a quarter (23.9 percent) of EDM party attendees have used opioids nonmedically in their lifetime and one out of 10 (9.8 percent) did so in the past year, which is higher than the national prevalence of past-year use of approximately 4 percent of adults 18 and older. Five percent of respondents reported misusing opioids in the past month.
OxyContin was the most highly reported opioid used in this scene, followed by Vicodin, Percocet, codeine, and Purple Drank, also known as Sizzurp or Lean (which typically contains codeine syrup). A smaller portion of users also snorted (15 percent) or injected opioids (11 percent) in the past year, which increases risk for overdose and dependence.
People who smoke cigarettes or use other drugs (including amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine) were more likely to report misusing opioids in the past month. In particular, nonmedical users of benzodiazepines such as Xanax were at high odds for also using opioids, and, on average, reported using more different opioid drugs in the past year than those who did not use opioids. While the study did not measure whether multiple drugs were used simultaneously, research has shown that users of benzodiazepines and prescription opioids commonly combine the drugs to enhance or come down from the effects of other drugs.
Previous opioid use predicted the likelihood of someone reporting willingness to use if offered in the future. Among non-users, 5.7 percent reported that they would take opioids if offered by a friend in the next month. However, among those who had taken opioids in the past year, almost three out of four (73.6 percent) reported they would be willing to use again.
Notably, almost nine out of 10 past-year users of Purple Drank indicated that they would use again if offered by a friend, although these findings on this cocktail may be limited. “While real Sizzurp, Lean, or Purple Drank contains codeine syrup, it is likely that many people consumed concoctions without codeine,” Palamar cautioned. However, the authors note that prevalence of opioid misuse did not change when removing this concoction from the list of opioids examined.
In addition to Palamar, study authors include Austin Le of NYU College of Dentistry and Charles M. Cleland of NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and CDUHR.
Funding: Research reported in this publication, “Nonmedical Opioid Use among Electronic Dance Music Party Attendees in New York City,” was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers K01DA038800 (PI: Palamar) and P30DA011041 (PI: Deren). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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Original Research: Abstract for “Nonmedical opioid use among electronic dance music party attendees in New York City” by Joseph J. Palamar and Joseph J. Palamar, Austin Le, Charles M. Cleland in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Published March 27 2018.
Nonmedical opioid use among electronic dance music party attendees in New York City
Nonmedical opioid use remains an epidemic in the United States. Electronic dance music (EDM) party attendees have been found to be at high risk for the use of drugs such as ecstasy, but little is known about nonmedical opioid use in this population.
Using time-space sampling, we surveyed 954 individuals (ages 18–40) attending randomly selected EDM parties in New York City in 2017. Participants were asked about the use of 18 different opioids and about willingness to use if offered by a friend in the next 30 days. We estimated the prevalence of use in this population and examined correlates of past-year and past-month use.
Almost a quarter (23.9%) of EDM party attendees are estimated to have used opioids non-medically in their lifetime, and one out of ten (9.8%) in the past year. 5% are estimated to be current users (reporting past-month use), and 16.4% are willing to use opioids non-medically if offered by a friend in the next 30 days. Past-year nonmedical benzodiazepine users were at high odds for reporting current nonmedical opioid use (aOR = 10.11, p < .001) and, on average, report using more different opioid drugs in the past year than non-past-year-users (p = .012). Nearly three-quarters (73.6%) of those who have used in the past year indicated that they would use again if offered by a friend in the next 30 days.
Nonmedical opioid use is prevalent in the EDM scene and many attendees are willing to use if offered. Prevention efforts are needed in this high-risk population.