Opioid Use Linked to Poor Health

Posted on July 6, 2018


Researchers found that criminal justice involvement rose as the intensity of opioid use increased

A national study published in JAMA Network Open found that people who use opioids are in poor health and have high levels of criminal justice involvement.

Investigators from the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute * in Minneapolis, Minnesota; University of Colorado; and New York University used data from the 2015 and 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine the association between various levels of opioid use and physical and mental health, other substance, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

Researchers found:

  • Criminal justice involvement rose as the intensity of opioid use increased.
  • The majority of people with a prescription opioid use disorder or heroin use reported a history of criminal justice involvement.
  • People who used opioids were more likely to have concurrent substance use, at least one chronic condition, severe mental illness, and a disability.
  • Health status worsened as the intensity of opioid use increased,

“These findings highlight that people who use opioids have multiple physical and mental health problems and are often involved in the criminal justice system. We need an approach to the opioid epidemic that improves connections between health care, public health, and the criminal justice system,” said Tyler Winkelman, MD, MSc, the lead author on the study.

This study is the first to use national data in identifying the health and justice profiles of people using various levels of prescription opioids or heroin.

Dr. Winkelman concludes, “One in three Americans are impacted by opioids, and the more we know about their health needs and criminal justice involvement, the better we can develop services that meet their needs and link care across systems.”

Authors: Tyler N.A. Winkelman, M.D., M.Sc., Hennepin Healthcare, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and coauthors

To Learn More: The full study is available on the JAMA Network Open website. (doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0558)

View Visual Abstract



About the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute

* Effective August 1, 2018, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) will be renamed Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI). HHRI is the research arm and a nonprofit subsidiary of Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., a comprehensive health system that includes HCMC, an acute care research and teaching hospital in Minneapolis. HHRI is one of the largest nonprofit medical research organizations in Minnesota and consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all institutions receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health.


Media Contact:

Susan O’Reilly
Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute
612-873-5321 (direct)
612-873-5300 (main)

Twitter: @hhrinstitute