It has been almost a year since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released their new formulation for OxyContin. The FDA released the new design of the tablet to help prevent the illegal misuse and abuse of the pain relieving drug. As successful as the new formula may be, the new version is causing authorities across the nation new stress. Authorities have been noticing a rise in more individuals turning to heroin to get the sensation of euphoria that at one time OxyContin was able to fulfill.

Expermentation with Oxys can lead to heroin.

On April 5, 2010 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the new formulation of the time controlled-release drug OxyContin. OxyContin is made to slowly release potent opioid oxycodone into patients that require management of a continuous around-the-clock pain suppressant. However, because of OxyContin’s time-released formula, each tablet contains large doses of oxycodone. With the old formula, individuals could release the high levels of oxycodone all at once. This leads to the illegal misuse and abuse of the tablet, which have resulted in thousands of fatal overdoses.

The new formulation has been designed to prevent the tablet from being; cut, broken, crushed, or dissolved by individuals that are looking to misuse the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration are aware that the new formulation of the tablet is not foolproof. Although the FDA feels that the new tablet is an improvement to help prevent future overdoses due to snorting, injecting or ingesting larger doses than recommended. Now that the tablet is harder (but not impossible) to tamper with,  drug users are looking for the other options to get the same affect.

Case Study: Coos County in Oregon

Law enforcement and drug treatment officials in Coos County Oregon, report an ever increasing influx of heroin in there area. Individuals close to the situation know that prescription drugs like OxyContin have fueled the addiction to heroin. According to Toby Floyd, director of SCINT and an official at a North Bend drug treatment center, “pill poppers have turned increasingly to the cheaper street drug since fall 2010.” In Coos County Oregon a tenth of a gram of heroin sells for $25 to $30, where OxyContin sells for $60 to $80 a tablet. People consider OxyContin to be heroin’s second cousin, so it’s obvious that users are going to go with the cheaper drug that creates a similar affect.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Dug Users and Health, approximately half a million people used OxyContin non-medically for the first time in 2008. It is no surprise that when Toby Floyd speaks with individuals that are involved with heroin say that they started with OxyContin.

In 2009 there were zero heroin investigations, now Coos County officials have 12 active heroin-distribution investigations.

At the University of Kentucky a researcher by the name of Jennifer Haven, interviewed 503 addicts through a course of six months. The Users said that the new pill has hit the streets and they do not like it. The tablet breaks into chunks which make it difficult to snort. When attempted to melt the tablet, it becomes gummy and can not be injected. FBI records show that in Kentucky about 70 people die each month as a result from an overdose of the prescription drug.  Authorities predict that OxyContin addicts in Kentucky will decrease, but there will be new problems due to heroin in Kentucky towns.

On Tuesday January 14, 2011, in Rockland Maine, police seized $25,000 worth of the older formula of OxyContin. This cleaned out the area’s supply of the off-market drug. Authorities in Rockland Maine are enthusiastic about the drug bust, but they say there is a huge influx of heroin use. Last summer the price of an original formula OxyContin was $100 dollars in Rockland Maine. Just recently the price for one tablet skyrocketed to $250.00. Maine State Police are seeing more people bringing heroin into the mid-coast.

OxyContin was designed to treat severe pain of cancer patients. Unfortunately, it has also led to a proliferation of addicted individuals who need help with an addiction to heroin. Mary D’Eramo, a member of the Abington Anti-Drug Coalition and the parents group Learn to Cope said, “There are other drugs out there. OxyContin hurts far more people and costs far more lives that it has ever saved”.  Looking at the negative effect the tablet has had on so many people’s lives, I can agree with Mary.

- Cesar Villalobos

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