|A new formulation of OxyContin makes it harder to
inhale or inject. Drug Enforcement Administration photo.
A change in the formulation of the powerful drug OxyContin has addicts turning to another high to fuel their habit: heroin.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis had more than 2,500 patients from 150 drug rehabilitation treatment centers in 39 states respond to survey questions that had a particular focus on the reformulation of OxyContin, reports research-reporting service Newswise. The new formula makes it harder to crush the pills, making inhaling or injecting them more difficult.
Since the new version of the drug was introduced, “inhalation or intravenous administration has dropped significantly,” said lead investigator Theodore J. Cicero. But drug use has not lessened, with addicts turning to heroin instead, which is also inhaled or injected. “We’re now seeing reports from across the country of large quantities of heroin appearing in suburbs and rural areas,” Cicero said.
OxyContin was originally designed to be released in the body slowly, preventing an immediate high. But by crushing the pills and inhaling them or dissolving them in water and then injecting the solution, addicts were able to get “an immediate rush,” Newswise reports.
Moreover, because OxyContin was designed to be slow-release, it contained large amounts of the generic drug oxycodone, which spurred even more in demand. The new version of the drug was introduced in 2010.
Survey results show “users who selected OxyContin as their primary drug of abuse has decreased from 35.6 percent of respondents before the release of the abuse-deterrant formulation to 12.8 percent now,” Newswise reports. (Read more
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called prescription drug abuse an “epidemic.” In Kentucky, about a 1,000 people die each year from prescription drug overdoses. More people die in Kentucky from prescription drug overdoses than they do from traffic accidents.
Law enforcement is also seeing that drug seekers are switching from OxyContin to the prescription drug Opana, reports Donna Leinwand Leger for USA Today. “A few years ago, it was OxyContin. Now it’s Opana,” said Raquel Foster, a police spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne Police Department.
As a new, harder-to-abuse formulation of Opana hits the market, however, “they are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction,” said DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs of the Office of Diversion Control. “When they either can’t get those particular pharmaceuticals or can’t afford them, they now gravitate to heroin.” (Read more)