Prescription drug abuse is a pandemic problem in the United States today, with more than five million Americans now addicted to painkiller drugs like OxyContin (oxycodone), the infamous opioid pill that alters brain and nervous system function. But according to a recent survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), OxyContin and other prescription pain medications are pushing more and more abusers, many of whom are children, to switch to deadly street drugs like heroin.
It should no longer be any kind of secret that OxyContin has been, and continues to be, a popular drug of choice for drug abusers seeking an easy “high.” In many areas, OxyContin prescriptions resold on the black market can fetch upwards of $80 a pill, or a whopping $8,000 for a single, 100-pill bottle. (http://money.cnn.com)
At least this is how much OxyContin used to sell for before its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma LP, released a slow release, “tamper proof” version of OxyContin that could not be crushed, split, ground, or dissolved in water. The black market for OxyContin has been slowly drying up since this manufacturing change, which many have since applauded as a successful intervention in curbing prescription drug abuse and addiction.
The only problem is that drug abusers have simply switched over to street heroin, which is cheaper and easier to access than OxyContin. Put another way, drug companies successfully roped millions of people into drug addiction via pain pills, only to later withdraw those pills, forcing many of those millions to make the switch to street drugs.
According to the NEJM study, which was conducted by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and Nova Southeastern University in Coral Gables, Florida, since Purdue replaced its original OxyContin formula with the tamper proof variety, abuse of the drug dropped by roughly 36 percent. But many of those who quit OxyContin simply switched over to heroin, as rates of heroin use around the same time doubled.
“We’re now seeing reports from across the country of large quantities of heroin appearing in rural and suburban areas,” said Theodore J. Cicero, Vice Chair of Research at Washington University‘s Department of Psychiatry. “Unable to use OxyContin easily, which was a very popular drug in rural and suburban areas, drug abusers who prefer snorting or IV drug administration now have shifted to more potent opioids if they can find them, or to heroin.”
Sources for this article include: