Examining how prescription drugs are illegally obtained: Social and ecological predictors

Clair White, Justin Ready, Charles Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The rise in prescription drug abuse is changing crime patterns among drug users and the structure of illegal drug markets. The illegal distribution of prescription drugs is different from traditional street drug markets because prescription drugs can be obtained from multiple sources including doctors, pharmacies, friends, and street-level dealers. Drawing from drug-market research, this article investigates whether there are individual and ecological predictors of how prescription drugs are illegally obtained. Our study uses multilevel analyses to examine a random sample of 366 drug offenders arrested in Maricopa County, Arizona. Our findings indicate that individuallevel characteristics such as mental illness and street drug use, as well as residential mobility within neighborhoods, are significant predictors of how prescription drugs are obtained for nonmedical purposes. This research suggests that an individual's routine activities and neighborhood characteristics are related to their methods for obtaining prescription drugs. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-23
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016


  • Drug Markets
  • Neighborhood Characteristics
  • Prescription Drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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