Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

The end of a journey

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on February 4, 2015

1930428_612120663129_8445_nDear Oxy Watchdog readers,

Six years ago, very shortly after my brother Pat’s death of a heroin overdose, I decided that I wanted to do something to increase awareness about the epidemic of prescription painkiller and opiate addiction in America today. This blog, launched just a few months after Pat passed away, was intended to be a place where people could come to learn more about a problem that is increasingly affecting families across the nation. But it became much more than that. Through the blog, many people from various walks of life reached out to me and shared their own stories. Sometimes these stories were from other families who had lost loved ones, filling me with sadness at the tragic loss of life and the horrors of addiction. Sometimes these stories were from chronic pain sufferers who were indignant at what they saw as my mission to interfere with their medications. Sometimes these stories were from addicts themselves who spoke openly about their own challenges and the heartbreak their drug use had caused them.

What these stories illustrate is clear: we have a problem in this country with prescription painkillers. They are responsible for more than 16,000 deaths each year, and the widespread abuse of opioids has triggered a resurgence in the use of heroin. But even after six years of running this blog, when it comes to fixing this problem, I don’t have the answer. I agree that stricter prescribing rules are probably a good thing, and that state prescription monitoring databases can help us understand the scope of the problem and identify drug seekers and pill pushers. But from what I have observed, these measures have had the unintended effect of driving many people hooked on pain pills to use heroin, so that isn’t fixing the problem either. I also strongly believe that there is a time and a place for opioids. My father battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia for nine years before dying at age 47, and opioids undoubtedly eased his suffering and improved his quality of life. But it is important to note that opioids were originally intended for a very specific medical purpose: to treat short-term post-surgical and trauma-related pain, and for palliative care. The fact is that these drugs carry a substantial risk of addiction: numerous studies have shown that at least 15% and as many as 40% of patients will become addicted to opioids—even when taken as prescribed.

My brother was a wonderful person, full of laughter and love and light. He was the opposite of what you think of when you picture an IV heroin user. And while there are many factors that likely contributed to his substance abuse—including the fact that addiction is a brain disease with a genetic component—it is difficult to ignore the larger context; that our market is flooded with powerful painkillers, which too often fall into the wrong hands. In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for such drugs were filled in the U.S.—enough to medicate every adult in America around the clock for a month. Pat was just one of those recipients, and his progression from pill abuse to fatal heroin overdose is not uncommon. In 2010, almost 3,000 young adults age 18-25 died of pill overdoses—eight deaths a day. And heroin is making a comeback because it provides the same high, but is vastly cheaper—use of the street drug is up by a staggering 45%.

In addition to this blog, I have spent the last six years working on a book, Generation Rx. The book, published in August 2014, details my brother’s addiction and death, interspersed with stories of others whose lives have been affected by opiate addiction. I felt it was important to speak openly about what happened to Pat, because if it happened to him, it could happen to anyone. Our society as a whole still stigmatizes addiction, so the struggles of those affected by this epidemic are shrouded in shame. My hope is that my book, and this blog, will help change that. I have often struggled with the question of how Pat would feel about the sharing of some very intimate details of his addiction and death. Sometimes I think he’d be okay with it, since one of his greatest qualities was his desire to help others; sometimes I think he’d be hurt, embarrassed and angry. It has also been extremely difficult to throw my family’s story into the public eye, though they’ve been supportive of my mission to further awareness.

Six years ago today, we received the phone call no one ever wants to get. Six years ago feels like yesterday; I can still feel the warmth of Pat’s hug and hear his goofy giggle. I have spent the last six years trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never see Pat again, to give him a legacy, to feel that his death was not in vain and—though I’d give anything to have it be otherwise—to believe that in death, he has helped others. It has been a long six years, and now that Generation Rx is published, I will be stepping away from Oxy Watchdog to focus on what lies ahead for me and my family. While I will no longer be updating the blog with news items, I hope that the resources and personal stories contained here will continue to be useful to others.

Thanks for reading.

Erin Marie Daly

Advertisements

Posted in Informational | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Opiate drug use in workplace nearly doubles

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 28, 2010

Use of opiate drugs in the workplace, such as OxyContin, has increased by 40 percent from 2005 to 2009 , according to data from Quest Diagnostics, a diagnostic testing company. This article in the New York Times reports that while working while under the influence can pose safety risks, many employees may be taking legal pain medications prescribed by doctors, and impairment can be difficult to prove. Last year alone, the rate of employees testing positive for prescription drugs rose by 18 percent, mirroring similar trends of rising prescription drug use in the U.S. population overall.

Read about prescription drug abuse trends in the U.S. here.

Posted in Pain Advocates, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New brand of prescription painkiller oxycodone approved

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 23, 2010

A new form of oxycodone hydrochloride, a synthetic opiate like the brand name drug OxyContin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week, reports this release from the FDA. Lehigh Valley Technologies formulated the brand-name Oxycodone HCI as a morphine-derived painkiller to rival Purdue Pharma’s best-selling brand OxyContin. Purdue has tried to limit production of time-release and generic brands of oxycodone and has been embroiled in several lawsuits to maintain control of its $3 billion-per-year drug. According to its website, Lehigh Valley has developed its own version of abuse-deterrent drugs. In 2009, Lehigh Valley received a warning from the FDA for marketing an unapproved version of morphine, as detailed in this letter from the FDA. Like the brand-name OxyContin, Oxycodone HCI is a Schedule II narcotic and highly prone to addiction.

Read more about Purdue’s suppression of generic forms of oxycodone here.

Posted in Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Heroin use increases in Utah, abusers younger than ever

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 21, 2010

As abuse of heroin in Utah climbs upward, authorities are finding the age of users is going down, sometimes as young as 13 or 14 years old, reports this article on ksl.com. Though OxyContin and marijuana tend to be more popular among youths, the costly price drives them to a less expensive alternative. The fact that the dealers have become extremely sophisticated – often making heroin easier to obtain than cigarettes or alcohol for teens – makes the problem more prevalent. Though the cost of heroin is cheaper for users in the Salt Lake City area, the average age of whom is 16 to 23, the cost can be far more deadly since the drug is now 60 percent pure, whereas in the 1970s it was only three percent pure.

Read about the Oxy-to-heroin trend among teens here.

Posted in Crime, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

States move closer to sharing prescription databases, curbing doctor shopping

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 19, 2010

Beginning next year, states in the U.S. will edge closer to unifying their prescription drug monitoring programs to share information and potentially cut down on doctor shopping, reports this article from CBS Business News. Though interstate prescription database sharing has been discussed for some years, the inconsistencies among each state’s program make unifying the system challenging, according to this report from the Council of State Governments. Because prescriptions drugs are the second-most abused drugs in the nation behind marijuana, nearly every state now has an existing or pending monitoring program aimed at curbing the epidemic.

Read about the Congressional caucus that examined interstate drug abuse here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New drug for Oxy, heroin addiction approved by FDA

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 18, 2010

A new treatment for opioid addiction – which includes heroin and painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin – was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this week, according to this article in USA Today. Unlike existing treatments which are essentially low-dose versions of the drug, Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection that blocks the effects of opiate drugs and is non-addictive. Though Vivitrol will sell for about $1,100 per injection, the creators are developing an implant that will last for six months, reports this article in the Washington Post. The article also cites a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which found that about 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin and another 1.85 million to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin.

Read about the drug buprenorphine used in opioid addiction treatment here.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pfizer snaps up maker of less-abusable OxyContin

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 12, 2010

King Pharmaceuticals, the maker of oxycodone-containing painkillers Remoxy and Acurox, has been bought by Pfizer for $3.6 billion, according to this article in the Washington Post. Remoxy was designed to be an abuse-resistant, control-released form of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, but was rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, reports this article from The Street. King also developed Acurox, another abuse-resistant opioid painkiller set to be submitted to the FDA in 2011. According to the Washington Post, with Pfizer at the helm, sales of the drugs could reach $500 million per year. Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, are also developing a less-abusable version of their $3 billion per-year painkiller.

Read about Purdue’s less-abusable version of OxyContin here.

Posted in Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Opiate addiction treatment faces mixed reviews in U.S.

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 11, 2010

Though buprenorphine, a drug used to fight addiction to opiate painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, was approved for use in the U.S. in 2002, it hasn’t met with the anticipated amount of success, reports this article from Medpage Today. Unlike methadone, the current opiate treatment drug of choice, buprenorphine partially inhibits the brain from receiving the feeling of euphoria associated with opiate use. What’s novel about the drug is that primary care doctors can prescribe it and patients can then treat themselves from home, rather than checking into a clinic. However, many physicians are hesitant to not only treat addicts, but to take on the added responsibility of prescribing the drug.

A large problem with the treatment of opiate abuse is that the addict can often become addicted to the treatment drug. Though it is virtually impossible to overdose on buprenorphine, it’s not exempt from abuse. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that buprenorphine ranks among the top 25 most frequently identified substances analyzed in laboratories and in 2006, an estimated 4,440 emergency room visits were associated with buprenorphine misuse.

Despite its abuse in the U.S., buprenorphine has found some success in France, where it’s credited for a decrease in overdose deaths and a six-fold drop in injection drug users.

Watch a video from Medpage Today about buprenorphine here.

Posted in Informational, Pain Advocates, Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Percocet abuse threatens OxyContin’s hold on teen users

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 10, 2010

Though prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in the past ten years with the painkiller OxyContin as the main drug of choice, teen users may now be switching to a similar prescription opiate, Percocet. According to this article in Wicked Local Bridgewater, Massachusetts police report an increase in Percocet-related crime in the past few months. Possible reasons for the switch include a lower price-tag – Percocet sells for $30 per tablet as compared to the $80 price tag on OxyContin – as well as more availability in the wake of the state’s crackdown on OxyContin. Like Oxy, Percocet contains oxycodone, is a Schedule II narcotic, and is a highly addictive “gateway” drug which may lead to stronger street drugs such as heroin.

Read more about Massachusetts’ battle with Oxy here.

Posted in Crime, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congress examines interstate prescription drug abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 7, 2010

In the midst of an ever-growing prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S., a congressional caucus met late September to examine interstate cooperation of prescription monitoring programs to better prevent doctor shopping, reports this article form Wicked Local Watertown.

Massachusetts Senator Steven Tolman testified before the caucus about the importance of sharing prescription data among states. Tolman oversees a state in which opiates like heroin and OxyContin are now the leading cause of death for young people, causing nearly 15 such deaths per week.

“Oxy hijacks your brain,” Sen. Tolman told OxyWatchdog in a July 2010 interview. “It grabs you. And it’s $80 a pill versus $4 for a bag of heroin. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s in every community.”

To read more about prescription drug abuse monitoring programs, go here.
Read about Mass. struggle with OxyContin here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: