Prescription for Death – The Transition from Oxy to Heroin

The leading cause of accidental death in the United States is prescription drug abuse. Prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Painkillers like OxyNEO which contains oxycodone, are actually derived from the opium poppy. They are just as addictive as their heroin. People that would never dream of doing heroin, are okay with taking a pill – especially one that comes from a doctor. That’s one of the reasons so many have become addicted to opioids in the past decade. They seem harmless in the beginning. OxyNEO is meant to be a continuous release drug, and has some very sophisticated ingredients which make it difficult to abuse (by crushing up to snort or inject). OxyNEO’s predecessor OxyContin was commonly crushed up to facilitate getting a massive dose of the narcotic painkiller immediately. Crushing up OxyContin would break the binding agent, allowing them to get the full dose of the drug. You could snort it, eat it, or dissolve it in water and inject it.

The Rise in Popularity of OxyContin and The Switch to Other Drugs

This manner of abusing OxyContin (and other opiate drugs) became very well known and the drugs had a very high street value. This was a problem for the drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, so they came up with a new binding agent in 2009. People would no longer be able to just crush them to get the full dose anymore. OxyNEO is an even newer version of OxyContin. This actually somewhat alleviated the abuse of prescription oxycodone drugs, but but not the drug abuse problem. Those who were addicted just switched to other drugs.

Washington University Study on Opiate Abusers

graduating from pills
Scary? Yes, But It Starts with “Harmless” Pills

There was a recent study done at Washington University in St. Louis that demonstrated this. For the study, scientists kept track of more than 2,500 opioid abusers from July of 2009, before OxyContin’s formula change, up until March of 2012. They used 39 treatment centers around the United States to pass out written, anonymous, surveys to drug users that asked them to list their primary means of getting high.

As they suspected, the Oxycontin number went down but the numbers just shifted to other opioids. People were finding much stronger drugs like Opana and fentanyl. Heroin use doubled from 2009 in 2012. Heroin is so inexpensive and readily available compared to the prescription drugs.

Heroin is quite similar to prescription opiates but is actually more dangerous for the user because the purity varies making it easier to overdose. Many communities are already seeing an increase in heroin overdoses, but it was the prescription drugs that paved the way with a new generation of opioid addictions.

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