Opana Replacing OxyContin for Many Abusers

In an effort to combat abuse of OxyContin, its maker Purdue Pharma recently changed the formula of OxyContin tablets.  Abusers typically crush the pills and then chew, inject or snort them.  The new formula, which makes the pills more difficult to crush, has caused some people who are addicted to OxyContin to switch to heroin o

Opana ER - Extended Release

r other opiate prescription drugs.  As a result, the prescription drug Opana is seeing a rise in popularity as a street drug.

Opana, the brand name for oxymorphone hydrochloride, is a narcotic painkiller that is similar to morphine.  It is prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.  Opana is also available in an extended-release form known as Opana ER that is intended to provide around-the-clock treatment for chronic pain.  Among prescription drug abusers, Opana is referred to by several slang names that are derived from its appearance including pink lady, pink heaven, stop signs, octagons and The O Bomb.

A key difference between Opana and OxyContin, which is based on oxycodone, is that oxymorphone is more of a sedative and provides a shorter euphoric high.  This shorter high makes Opana extremely habit-forming since abusers require more of the drug to maintain the desired level of euphoria.

The effects and symptoms of Opana addiction and abuse include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Respiratory depression
  • Fatigue and extreme sleepiness
  • Dizziness, nausea and light-headedness
  • Stupor or coma

An overdose of Opana may lead to circulatory collapse, apnea, cardiac arrest and death.

Opana has only been on the market for about 5 years, so its full potential for abuse is not yet known.  According to its manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, it was introduced as an alternative for patients who develop a tolerance for other types of painkillers.  Endo previously marketed oxymorphone under the name Numorphan but was forced to withdraw it from the market in 1972 because it was highly sought after by opioid addicts.  Numorphan tablets, known on the street as “blues” due to their color, were very easy to dissolve and inject and were highly potent when used intravenously.

According to the DEA, uninformed Opana abusers who have previously used Oxycontin are at risk of unintentional overdose because Opana is stronger than OxyContin.  In addition, a safe dose of Opana when injected is lower than the safe oral dose, increasing the risk for overdose.

The treatment for Opana addiction is similar to treatment for other types of opioids.  Detoxification is required to overcome withdrawal from physical addition, followed by residential drug treatment, addiction therapy and follow-up counseling.

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