Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

Posts Tagged ‘Deaths’

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

Posted in Informational | 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 »

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 »

Watchdog Editorial: Don’t forget the ‘dorm rats’

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 4, 2010

The latest issue of Time Magazine has an alarming article on the “national epidemic of pill popping and accidental overdosing.” The article details how the medical community’s increased focus on acute and chronic pain, combined with Big Pharma’s bounty of powerful painkillers like OxyContin, has led to a tenfold increase in prescriptions for opioids in the U.S. since 1990. And “most experts agree that nothing but the exploding availability of opioids could be behind the exploding rate of death,” the article says.

According to the article, the people most affected by opiate abuse are mostly baby boomers – “so-called naive users in the 35-to-64 age group” who are often given 30-day prescriptions for OxyContin, “and it’s like a little opioid starter kit.” The article states that “contrary to stereotype, the people most at risk in this epidemic are not the usual pill-popping suspects – the dorm rats and users of street drugs.”

This may be the case statistically, but it’s not the whole picture. On a recent visit to Massachusetts, Watchdog met with family after family who have lost young kids – most of them under 25 – to Oxy and heroin addiction. Without exception, the kids got started on Oxy in high school and eventually moved on to heroin as they were priced out of their opiate addiction. Watchdog left with a pile of obituaries and mass cards for these kids half a foot high. Watchdog’s take: opiate addiction has many faces, but it’s crucial to focus on how this phenomenon is affecting the younger generation, even if the statistics claim the trend is focused elsewhere.

Quoted in the article is Joanne Peterson, founder of Learn To Cope, a support group for parents and family members dealing with a loved one addicted to heroin, OxyContin and other drugs. Peterson, who has attended 18 funerals of young kids who died of Oxy and heroin since December, tells OxyWatchdog the opiate abuse trend is leading to the loss of a generation of kids, and uses a much stronger word than “epidemic” to describe what she’s seeing on the ground.

“It’s comparable to a genocide,” says Peterson. “It’s killing so many people.”

Peterson – who said L2C’s weekly support meetings have become so heavily attended that they are often standing-room only – also expresses frustration with OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma, for not doing enough to address the addiction problems its drug is creating. (In 2007, the company and three of its top executives forked over a $634.5 million fine to settle charges that they misled doctors and the public about the drug’s dangers.)

“I don’t understand how our country can allow a pharmaceutical company and its executives, who are convicted felons who pleaded guilty to mismarketing, to go on doing business in this country,” she says.

Read Time Magazine’s previous coverage of pill abuse here.

Posted in Editorial, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Oxy thief ends own life

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on August 5, 2010

OxyWatchdog usually posts crime-related stories under Oxy Crime Watch, but this story of a man who stole OxyContin from a Rite Aid pharmacy in Spokane, Wash. and then shot himself as he was being pursued by police highlights the desperation the painkiller creates in addicts.

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

OxyWatchdog Memory Wall

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on July 30, 2010

OxyWatchdog has started a Memory Wall remembering those who have died due to OxyContin and heroin addiction. If you would like your loved one to be included, please email a picture in .jpg format, as well as a brief description, to oxywatchdog@gmail.com.

Posted in Personal Stories | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pill-related overdoses skyrocket in Fla.

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on July 8, 2010

Prescription drug-related deaths in Florida spiked by 20 percent in Florida last year over 2008, according to a new report released by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, the Epoch Times reports. Prescription drugs contributed to more than 8,600 deaths in Florida in 2009, up from 6,200 reported in 2008, the article says. The four leading deadly substances were heroin, methadone, oxycodone, and fentanyl, and the leading cause of death continues to be heroin which contributed to 85% of drug fatalities, according to the article.

Posted in Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Oxy-to-heroin trend hits Chicago hard

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on June 29, 2010

More people visit hospital emergency rooms in Chicago and its suburbs with problems related to heroin than in any other major metropolitan area in the U.S., a trend that is being driven in part by teens who are hooked on OxyContin, this article reports, citing a recent study by researchers at Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy.

Read the full report here.

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

San Diego parents fight Oxy abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on June 29, 2010

This short news clip from NBC Channel 4 San Diego shows how parents are partnering with law enforcement officials and activists to try to combat the rising rates of OxyContin abuse in their community. One of the organizations they’re teaming up with is San Diego’s Oxy Task Force, which you can read more about here.

Posted in Personal Stories, Policy & Regulation | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oxy-related ER visits up 152%

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on June 21, 2010

U.S. emergency department visits for the non-medical use of opioid painkillers increased 111 percent in 2008 compared to 2004, jumping to 306,000 in 2008 from 144,600 in 2004, according to this article. OxyContin was the second-most misused drug, with ER visits related to its abuse increasing 152 percent, the article says.

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

 
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