OxyContin Addiction

OxyContin Addiction

Some people start using this drug just for fun and relaxation; others got their first dosage from a doctor’s prescription. Some people do not become addicted. Others become hooked within a week. This is what makes OxyContin® such a dangerous drug.

What’s even more disturbing is that it keeps growing in popularity in the United States. In some sections of the country, almost 400 out of every 100,000 people are into it, and many government experts on drugs believe that this is probably the wave of the future for the entire United States.

What is OxyContin®? Why is it becoming so widely misused?

OxyContin,® manufactured by Purdue Pharma and first introduced in 1996, is a time-released version of the painkiller oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opiate narcotic chemically related to morphine and heroin. Oxycodone is most frequently sold as a combination of aspirin in Endodan,® Percodan,® Percodan-Demi,® and Roxiprin,® and as a combination of acetaminophen in Percocet,® Endocet,®Magnacet,® Narvox,® Percocet,®Roxicet,® Tylox,® and Ocycocet.® These drugs usually wear off after four hours, so OxyContin,® which lasts eight to twelve hours, was marketed as a break-through improvement over the original versions.

Doctors used to prescribe oxycodone mostly to terminally ill cancer patients, who are not in danger of becoming addicts. For a variety of reasons, including aggressive marketing by Purdue Pharma, physicians prescribed OxyContin® more routinely, especially to people with chronic pain.

Unlike street drugs, OxyContin® has a reputation of being safe and non-addictive, partly because of advertising claims by its manufacturer. After three company executives and Purdue Frederick Company, a division of Purdue Pharma , were found guilty of criminal charges that they used misleading advertising claims to promote OxyContin,® it is no longer marketed as non-addictive.

Addicts do not usually take OxyContin® as medically directed. Instead of swallowing the pill with water, they chew it; crush it and breathe in the powder; or dissolve it into water and inject it into their veins. These new ways of taking OxyContin® deliver what should be a gradual eight-hour dose immediately.

The first time people take it they can feel euphoria and bliss, and a kind of dissolving away of every physical, emotional and mental pain they have ever known. The second dose is usually not as good. However, many people tell their therapists that they kept taking OxyContin® in an effort to recapture that first "high." After repeatedly taking this drug, they can no longer feel normal without it. If they stop, they feel nauseous, and experience headaches, chills alternating with sweats, heart palpitations and other symptoms. One person in withdrawal described the feeling as "a hammer to my head." To avoid these symptoms, many people simply go back to their drug.

People addicted to OxyContin® tend to be over 25 years old, female, and white, but this may be changing as more young people, including middle school and high school students, experiment with the drug. The drug is widely available in that six to eleven million prescriptions are written for it a year. Government estimates are that over five million people over age 12 years old abuse it.

Since OxyContin® costs anywhere between $20 and $400 a pill through illegal sources, some addicts turn to heroin, which averages $5 to $10 a dose. Heroin involves them with street dealers and street criminals in order to get their supply. As one police lieutenant put it, "Opiate addiction leads to somebody who normally would not be out committing crimes to committing crimes."

The number of people visiting emergency rooms because of prescription drug abuse doubled between 2005 and 2011, with a 400% increase in painkiller abuse. Substance abuse treatment centers report increases in admissions for prescription drug abuse, and the number one problem is oxycodone. Many addicts say that they are reluctant to enter treatment because the withdrawal process is unpleasant. However, new treatments employing the drug buprenorphine/naloxone can make their symptoms less severe. After withdrawal, most people have to go through therapy and learn stress-coping techniques in order to avoid going back into substance abuse.

REFERENCES

Bouthillette, Emily. "Seminar aims to educate on painkiller abuse," Portland Press Herald, January 6, 2011.

Byrne, Marilyn; Lander, Laura; Ferris, Martha. "The Changing Face of Opioid Addiction: Prescription Pain Pill Dependence and Treatment." Health & Social Work; Feb2009, Vol. 34 Issue p53-56.
DiConsiglio, John. "SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Problem Pill." Scholastic Choices; Jan201 Vol. 26 Issue p14-17.

"Doctors abet growing abuse of pain medication." USA Today; 06/21/2010

Goodnough, Amy. "Prescription drug abuse sends more people to the hospital," New York Times, January 5, 2011.

Kluger, Jeffrey. "The New Drug Crisis: Addiction By Prescription." Time; 9/13/2010, Vol. 176 Issue 1 p46-49.

“OxyContin,” in the Physicians’ Desk Reference, 62nd Edition, (New York: Thomson HealthCare) 2009.

“Prescription Drug Abuse: A Serious Problem,” Partnership for a Drug-Free America at http://www.drugfree.org/portal/drugissue/features/prescription_medicine_misuse

Rubin, Rita."FDA dispenses opioid concern." USA Today; 02/10/2009

Sullivan, Andrew. "Doctors, police grapple with rise in prescription pill addiction," WCAX News, Vermont, January 5, 2011.

U.S. Justice Department, Office of Drug Administration website information at
http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/oxycodone/oxycontin_faq.htm#4

Van Zee, Art. "Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy."American Journal of Public Health; Feb2009, Vol. 99 Issue p221-227.

 

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