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January 1975

Addicted and Nonaddicted Drug Users: A Comparison of Drug Usage Patterns

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neuropsychiatry, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, DC (Drs. Nace and Rothberg and Mr. Meyers); and the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia (Dr. Maleson). Dr. Nace is now with the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(1):77-80. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760190079009

A detailed analysis of drug usage patterns of 101 multidrug-using soldiers disclosed little differentiation between individuals with a history of heroin addiction (N = 68) from demographically similar multidrug-using (but nonaddicted) peers (N = 33). Prior to the onset of heroin addiction, relatively few differences in drug usage patterns emerged between the two groups, and what differences there were indicated more extensive drug use and a more rapid progression of drug use among the nonaddicted users. A "stepping-stone hypothesis" of heroin addiction is refuted by these data.

Differences in drug use emerge after the initiation of heroin. Within a few months after first heroin use, those who did not become addicted returned to their preheroin experimentation levels of drug taking while the addicted group maintained an escalating pattern of opiate use.