As Pain Pills Change, Abusers Move to New Drugs
As fatalities from drug poisoning deaths climb in the U.S., pharmaceutical companies try to keep ahead of drug abusers by making drugs more difficult to inhale or inject. From 1999 to 2008 the number of fatalities had tripled.
But, some researchers believe that even with a change in drug formulations, those addicted will remain addicted and will try to satisfy their craving with something else. As they move away from prescription drugs and towards heroin or other illicit drugs, doctors no longer can monitor drug intake and individuals risk a greater addiction and overdose.
From OxyContin to Opana to Heroin
OxyContin was a heavily abused prescription opioid in the U.S. until, in 2010, Purdue Pharma changed their drug into an abuse-resistant formulation. The drug then became more difficult for individuals to inject or inhale. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) revealed that 36 percent of drug abusers had previously used OxyContin as their primary drug, but after the re-formulation only 13 percent used it.
Many who were hooked on OxyContin found a new drug of choice in Opana. Addicts began to abuse Opana as they had OxyContin. Endo Pharmaceuticals recently replied by creating an abuse-resistant formulation drug for Opana. Researchers wonder what the next drug of choice will be. They have already noticed that as prescription medicines are restricted or reformed, more individuals are turning to heroin and "street drugs" in order to satisfy their addictive cravings.
Researchers assert that changing a drug’s formulation is not the answer to end addiction. Addiction is the result of a dysfunctional coping strategy. Taking away their drugs does not heal them or treat them in any way.
Changing the drug formulations restricts new addicts from abusing a drug, but does nothing to help those already addicted. In fact, changing formulations is actually pushing users to find their drugs away from doctors. Some find that heroin is even cheaper and easier to acquire and use.
The Cure is in the Cause
As drug abusers turn to dangerous street drugs to satisfy an addiction started by prescription drugs, doctors are losing track of the drugs their patients use. When doctors can’t monitor their patients’ drug use, drug abusers risk their lives.
Some doctors can monitor their patient’s use with urine tests and pill counts. They can sometimes check with other doctors to see who also is supplying the patient with pills. But once the patient no longer uses the office, no one can help them monitor a safe intake.
If doctors notice an opioid addiction they can treat it with other opioids and offer counseling. Unnoticed, a person is left alone to flounder uncontrollably with their cravings.
While changing the formulation of prescription drugs that are commonly abused helps reduce new addictions, those already in the grip of opioid addiction need help in overcoming their cravings. With counseling and drug addiction treatment, doctors can get to the root of the cause of the addiction and improved mental health can soon begin.