The Drug enforcement Administration has targeted as a top priority the illegal use of the prescription painkiller OxyContin in the wake of what the agency says is a dramatic and dangerous increase in the drug’s availability. Simply crushing the tablet can negate the controlled-release effect of the drug, enabling abusers to swallow or snort the drug for a powerful morphinelike high. The tablet can also be crushed, mixed with water and injected. In this paper I discuss the abuse of OxyContin and other prescription painkillers.
The synthetic Opioid OxyContin has become a drug of abuse, following in the steps of other prescription drugs that contain Oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. The level of abuse and the number of people who have died because of OxyContin abuse are growing. At first many pain specialist initially believed that the controlled-release oxycondone had a low potential for abuse, boy were they wrong. In recent years, this drug has exploded to the streets. The latest report from the DeA, the Drug enforcement Agency, states that Oxycontins have played a role in over 282 people since the beginning of 2002. (1) The DeA says that it is only a matter of time before every community in this country is confronted with the problem of Oxycontin abuse. No prescription drug in the last twenty years has been so widely abused after it’s release. Oxycontin was pain reliever meant to do good, not bad. Oxycontin is prescribed to patients, who are chronic pain, patients who are dying of cancer, recovering from major surgery and or suffering from unbearable headaches. This pain reliever is known for its significant improvement over all other pain relieving medications. The time-release mechanisms allow the right amount of the medication to be released to keep sustained relief for people in severe pain for up to 12 hours. (McHugh) Not only street users become addicts, patients also become very addicted to their own medicine. Many patients go threw heavy withdrawal symptoms when their prescriptions have ended. No longer will insurance pay or doctors write prescriptions. So they too must turn to the black market to fulfill their addiction. In the worst cases some patients turn to heroin because Oxycontins to expensive.
Before a person is prescribed this pill, the patient is supposed to undergo a complete physical examination, the patients record should be contained with detailed documentation of the nature and intensity of the pain, current and past treatment, other illnesses, and their history of drug and alcohol use. Then the risks, type, dosage, and quantity of the pain medication must be explained to the patient. Prescriptions will only be filed out during office hours, lost prescription slips will not be rewritten or otherwise replaced, lost or stolen medications will not be replaced. If asked by the doctor, the patient can be submitted to drug testing and urine screening to ensure that the patient is taking a controlled release of the oxycodone. All of these steps must be taken before the prescription can even be written out by the doctor. The Connecticut Company, Purdue Pharma, first introduced Oxycontins in December of 1995. Since then the popularity of this pain pill has grossed to over 1 billion dollars in U.S. retail Sales last year with of 5.5 million prescriptions written. (1) Street users are attracted to the drugs euphoric high. The time- release is licked or peeled off of the pill. It is then crushed with a hard object broken up to a white powder, then it is broken up into very small lines and snorted or mixed into a dilute and injected into their veins. The drug then provides a high very similar to heroin, like heroin, it becomes highly addictive. OxyContin is a narcotic drug. Narcotic drugs cause not only a physical addiction but also a psychological dependence. Narcotics are drugs that produce a change in response to sensations. Sounds appetizing doesn’t it.
The problem with OxyContins is that each tablet contains higher amounts of narcotic than any other painkillers, because of the extended action of the medication. Authorities suggest that this is the reason for the streets popularity. OxyContin abusers who have never used heroin may be attracted to heroin when they can no longer afford the high street level price of OxyContins. Heroin is much cheaper and gives a stronger feeling of euphoria. You may ask how do these drugs get into the hands of abusers? Pharmacy workers take the drug directly from the shelf. People create fraudulent prescriptions. People with or without true illness visit several doctors, perhaps even in several states to obtain a large quantity of the drug. Dishonest doctors write improper prescriptions for money or favors. Addicts rob houses, nursing homes and pharmacies just to get high. On the other hand, many doctors don’t prescribe it because they don’t want to be suspected of irregular practice. As a result of numerous robberies many drug stores no longer carry Oxycontin for the fear of being robbed. All of these factors are hurting the people who are legally prescribed OxyContin or other narcotic pain relievers to treat legitimate conditions, often are unfairly accused of being addicted to the pain medications. Misconceptions about proper pain management sometimes lead to under-utilization of available pain medications. Cancer patients and people in recovery are at a high risk of losing their medication because of the increasing sillegal use of the drug. Many law suits are being brought against Purdue that might hurt the avaiblitly of the drug. What is being done to stop this rapidly growing epidemic?
Purdue Pharma has responded to the growing problem of OxyContin abuse by distributing over 400,000 brochures to pharmacists and healthcare professionals to educate them on preventing diversion. Legislative initiatives are also being drafted to make Oxycontins distribution less appealing by creating more strict penalties. Meeting with law enforcement officials in several states. (Folstein) Offering grant money for education and drug abuse prevention programs. Purdue Pharma claims it is committed to finding solutions. In the long term, millions of dollars are being spent on research and development a new pain medication, less likely to be abused. A new painkiller, still in development, is not expected to be available for at least three years, and has yet to be named. Purdue Pharma is anticipating that clinical trials will begin in early 2002. However, years of research and the FDA approval process are hurdles which must be cleared before anything newly-developed can be marketed. Clearly, that is not an immediate solution to the OxyContin problem. That’s why the DeA has stepped in with a sense of urgency, offering its proposals as deterrents to the abuse.
The Drug enforcement Administration surveyed medical examiners on drug-related deaths in 2000 and 2001 and concluded OxyContin was the direct cause of or a contributing factor in 146 deaths. An additional 318 deaths most likely involved OxyContin as well, the report stated. Purdue Pharma funded a recent study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology that examined 1,243 deaths from Aug. 27, 1999, through Jan. 17, 2002, in which medical examiners determined oxycodone, the narcotic in OxyContin, was involved. Almost 97 percent of the deaths resulted from multiple drugs. Three percent involved oxycodone alone.
There is way around it, illegal OxyContin use is a problem. It’s both. OxyContin is one of the best-selling brand-name drugs in the world, and also one of the most abused drugs. Although, this pill is meant to help save lives it is killing more than it is helping. Many street users of OxyContin are young, like my friends at home are who are unaware of how potent these tablets can be. The addiction to this pill is so dangerous and if is not taken under control it will control you. If you know someone who may be addicted please get them help before there lives go down the tubes. I hope you all can see how important this subject is. It is affecting my life, I hope you can stop it from affecting yours.