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OxyContin abuse falling, but heroin abuse rising


Last November, a pharmacist being held up in a robbery had an interesting request from her attacker: he didn't want OxyContin--he wanted methadone.

Dr. Gregory G. Davis, professor of pathology at the University of Alabama, says that OxyContin is "going out of style," and that addicts are opting for other drugs, like heroin, instead.

Why the switch?

Before 2010, OxyContin prescribed in the US could be ground up into a fine powder and snorted, releasing the effects of the drug more quickly and intensely. But the new abuse-resistant OxyContin takes on a mushy, gummy-like quality when crushed.

The move away from the old version of the drug has significantly cut into the abuse and trafficking of it, but addicts have moved on to a more reliable high.

“Most people that I know don’t use OxyContin to get high anymore. They have moved on to heroin [because] it is easier to use, much cheaper, and easily available," said one participant in a 2012 Washington University study that analyzed the abuse rates of people using both the old and new version of OxyContin.

Accidental addiction

Many people become addicted to OxyContin accidentally--when they're prescribed the medication for pain and find themselves unable to stop using, even when the pain is gone. Doctors, accordingly, can be hesitant to give prescriptions.

"There are a lot of people not getting treatment, and a lot of physicians not willing to take the risk of prescribing opioids,” said Dr. Lynn Webster, the incoming president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2011 saw 14,800 opiod-related deaths in 20,044 prescription drug-related deaths.

Webster believes that, given current challenges, the FDA should only approve medications that are abuse resistant.

Source: Forbes