Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

Posts Tagged ‘heroin’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Watchdog Reports: Panel says doctors, Internet main instigator of prescription drug abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 24, 2010

Two large bottles of liquid oxycondone proved a powerful visual for the practice of over-prescribing pain medication that leads to or aids in prescription drug abuse at Wednesday’s panel presentation discussing the growing national trend, hosted by Chico State University in California.

The three-hour panel presentation was put together by Not in our Town Glenn County, managed by Jim Bettencourt and attend by 60 students, parents and community members. OxyWatchdog contributor Esmeralda F. Ramirez was there to hear what the panel had to say.

According to Bettencourt, the irresponsibility of doctors prescribing an excess of a drug is not uncommon and many physicians do not screen patients to see what is in their bodies. When a patient in pain is asking for a large amount of Vicodin, for example, the physician should ask for a simple urine test to check for existing medication in the patient’s system and prescribe the necessary amount of drugs, he said.

When patients want more than what they are prescribed, it’s a sign that they have become addicted, said Salvadore Biondolillo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is sponsoring this Saturday’s Take-Back Day. A classic example, he said, is a patient that has been taking hydrocodone, then switches to oxycodone, then OxyContin, and finally to heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription drugs.

A dangerous online world

If someone with an addiction cannot get enough of their prescription drug of choice from a physician, they go online, according to Biondolillo. Websites are one of the reasons prescription drug abuse has been increasing in the past few years, he said: there are sites that contain a multitude of information for many kinds of prescription drugs, and it is difficult to monitor all of them. Biondolillo refers to the Internet as “the perfect storm” because prescriptions that come from overseas are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or are often placebos, he said.

Drugs next door

Another way addicts find prescription drugs is through friends, family or street sells, Biondolillo said. When physicians prescribe a excessive amount of drugs, there are bound to be leftovers, said Lee Snook, medical director of the Metropolitan Pain Management Consultants Inc. There are a lot of cases in which the leftovers are divided and sold on the street or are given for free to friends and family as experimentation, he said.

A generation of young addicts

The best place to discuss and educate the community about the rising problem of prescription drug abuse is in colleges throughout the U.S., according to Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy, research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). College is where young people start to experiment, she said, and prescription drug abuse on many college campuses is rampant.

One interesting sidenote: a study by CASA found that in the early 1990s, those that used prescription drugs to get high were people who had already been using illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, Foster said. In the early- to mid-2000s, however, the study showed that prescription drug abuse was coming from high school and college students, she said. They were experimenting with those drugs, replacing marijuana as the experimentation drug historically common among younger generations.

There are different reasons why people begin abusing illicit drugs and other substances, Foster noted. But when it comes to prescription drugs, advertising – to which young people are particularly susceptible – plays a role because it creates a mindset that everything can be cured with a pill.

“We have to change the culture of this disorder,” Foster said.

Pills as life-threatening as guns

Although the choice is always up to the individual, parents play a big role in helping their children stay away from prescription drugs, according to Snook. Prescription drugs are like guns, he said. They both kill, and they both need to be locked away from children and disposed of properly if they are not needed anymore.

Snook, for his part, tries to help people recover because he himself is a former addict and understands the hardships associated with addiction.

“I see Satan’s eyes in the person I’m trying to save,” Snook said.

By Esmeralda F. Ramirez, exclusive to OxyWatchdog

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Man steals baby food to support heroin addiction

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 19, 2010

A trend among abusers of the painkiller OxyContin is to switch to heroin, which costs less and is often easier to obtain – a trend exemplified by Sean Roderick of Massachusetts. Roderick, 30, recently pleaded guilty to stealing baby formula from a supermarket with the intention to resell it in order to support his heroin addiction, reports this article on Seacoastonline.com. Though Roderick told the judge he is committed to beating an addiction stemming from the OxyContin he was prescribed for knee surgery, the judge holds little hope.

“From this court’s experience, we’re going to see Mr. Roderick back again,” said the judge, according to the article. “It happens in every heroin case.”

To read more about the Oxy-to-heroin trend, go here.

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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.

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Ind. opiate abuse increasing faster than national average

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on August 29, 2010

According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal overdoses of opiates – including OxyContin – outnumber those caused by other drugs. In Indiana, the Journal Gazette reports that compared to the national average, the abuse of prescription drugs is climbing higher faster than that of illegal drugs. In 2008, the use of OxyContin alone had increased by a whopping 712 percent in the state. One major cause for the change, according to the paper: unlike “street drugs” such as cocaine and marijuana which are smuggled in from other countries, prescription narcotics are readily available at local pharmacies. The abuse is also being fueled by the perception that because drugs like Oxy are prescription medicines and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they are safer than illegal drugs, the paper says.

To read about the national trend of increased prescription drug abuse, go here.

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