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AIMS Public Health. 2015 Dec 2;2(4):762-783.

Prescription Drug Diversion: Predictors of Illicit Acquisition and Redistribution in Three U.S. Metropolitan Areas.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard, Howard Phillips Hall 309, Orlando, FL 32816-1361, USA.
Psychology Department, Queens College, City University of New York, 6530 Kissena Boulevard, SB A344, Queens, NY 11367-1597, USA.
Social Science Department, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA.
School of Social Work, Rutgers University, 536 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.
National Development and Research Institutes, 71 West 23rd Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10010, USA.
Department of Social Work, Binghamton University, P.O. Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000.
Science Department, Berkeley College, 3 East 43 Street New York, NY 10017, USA.
Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Sociology and Criminology Department, Cabrini College, 610 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, PA 19087-3698, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Harlem Hospital Center, 506 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY 10037, USA.
Public Health Solutions, 40 Worth Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10013, USA.



Prescription drug diversion, the transfer of prescription drugs from lawful to unlawful channels for distribution or use, is a problem in the United States. Despite the pervasiveness of diversion, there are gaps in the literature regarding characteristics of individuals who participate in the illicit trade of prescription drugs. This study examines a range of predictors (e.g., demographics, prescription insurance coverage, perceived risk associated with prescription drug diversion) of membership in three distinct diverter groups: individuals who illicitly acquire prescription drugs, those who redistribute them, and those who engage in both behaviors.


Data were drawn from a cross-sectional Internet study (N = 846) of prescription drug use and diversion patterns in New York City, South Florida, and Washington, D.C.. Participants were classified into diversion categories based on their self-reported involvement in the trade of prescription drugs. Group differences in background characteristics of diverter groups were assessed by Chi-Square tests and followed up with multivariate logistic regressions.


While individuals in all diversion groups were more likely to be younger and have a licit prescription for any of the assessed drugs in the past year than those who did not divert, individuals who both acquire and redistribute are more likely to live in New York City, not have prescription insurance coverage, and perceive fewer legal risks of prescription drug diversion.


Findings suggest that predictive characteristics vary according to diverter group.


Internet-based study; United States; diversion; illicit behavior; prescription drugs

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