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Soc Sci Med. 2012 May;74(10):1602-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.053. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

OxyContin® as currency: OxyContin® use and increased social capital among rural Appalachian drug users.

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  • 1Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, 915B South Limestone, Lexington, KY 40502, USA.


Studies have shown that position within networks of social relations can have direct implications on the health behaviors of individuals. The present study examines connections between drug use and individual social capital within social networks of drug users (n = 503) from rural Appalachian Kentucky, U.S.A. Respondent driven sampling was used to recruit individuals age 18 and older who had used one of the following drugs to get high: cocaine, crack, heroin, methamphetamine, or prescription opioids. Substance use was measured via self-report and social network analysis of participants' drug use network was used to compute effective size, a measure of social capital. Drug network ties were based on sociometric data on recent (past 6 month) drug co-usage. Multivariate multi-level ordinal regression was used to model the independent effect of socio-demographic and drug use characteristics on social capital. Adjusting for gender, income, and education, daily OxyContin(®) use was found to be significantly associated with greater social capital, and daily marijuana use was associated with less social capital. These results suggest that in regions with marked economic disparities such as rural Appalachia, OxyContin(®) may serve as a form of currency that is associated with increased social capital among drug users. Interventions focusing on increasing alternate pathways to acquiring social capital may be one way in which to alleviate the burden of drug use in this high-risk population.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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