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Understanding the Scope and Magnitude of Prescription Drug Diversion

Steven P. Kurtz, Principal Investigator
Hilary L. Surratt, Co- Investigator
Theodore J. Cicero (Washington University), Co-Investigator

Project Period: 2007-2012
Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Funding Amount: $2.6 million

Project Summary:

The goal of this project is to examine and describe the complex mechanisms and players that connect illicit supplies of prescription drugs (diversion) to abusers in South Florida from three vantage points: 1) prescription drug abusers, 2) prescription drug dealers, and 3) law enforcement. More specifically, this project aims to 1) recruit samples of 900 treatment clients, 300 street-based drug users, 300 gay male stimulant abusers, and 300 elderly participants, all with prescription drug abuse problems; 2) assess life histories of drug abuse, including current alcohol, illicit, and prescription drugs; 3) assess mechanisms of access to and acquisition of prescription drugs; 4) assess demographic, sociocultural, and psychosocial characteristics that are hypothesized to connect prescription drug abusers to their illicit sources of supply; 5) conduct in-depth interviews with sub-samples of 30 respondents from each subgroup; 6) recruit 50 prescription drug sellers from diverse networks and conduct in-depth interviews to determine which prescription drugs they sell, to whom, in what quantities, at what prices, and how they are obtained; 7) extract data from the arrest files of 300 prescription drug traffickers to examine the sources and mechanisms of prescription drug trafficking; and, 8) conduct in-depth interviews with 20 diversion investigators in large police agencies to obtain information about the sources of diverted prescription drugs. As such, this study seeks to develop a fuller understanding of the mechanisms and magnitude of prescription drug abuse and diversion, and how they vary across user populations which is critical for health care and regulatory agencies in order to develop appropriate prevention, risk management, treatment, policy, and enforcement initiatives.



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