Prescription drug abuse is being seen more and more among all ages and demographics. Painkillers, or Opioids, like Oxycodone and Methadone are some of the most commonly misused prescriptions. These medications can become very addictive if not effectively monitored by both patient and physician.
In the last few years, Canada has seen many changes to the popular painkiller, Oxycontin. Manufacturers changed Oxycontin’s formula shortly before their patent on the painkiller expired (which would allow generic copies to be produced). While Oxycontin was originally developed as a slow-release painkiller, it was quickly learned that snorting or injected it allowed users to experience the drug’s entire effect all at once.
Oxycontin’s New Identity
This change in formula made Oxycontin (renamed OxyNEO) harder to abuse. When a person tries to alter OxyNEO for snorting or injection, it forms into a gel and becomes too gummy for such purposes. This change has garnered both support and criticism. Advocates believe OxyNEO lowers levels of abuse and addiction in addition to reducing the risk of fatal respiratory relapse. Others believed it only translates into different problems elsewhere.
Outcomes of OxyNEO
One of the problems noticed shortly after OxyNEO’s debut was a spike in heroin use. With the inability to use OxyNEO in the same ways as its predecessor, many people turned to the next closest substance – heroin. Heroin is much cheaper and easier to access than prescription opioids. But because illicit substances like heroin are not regulated, users do not know how much heroin they’re ingested or if there are other substances cut in. The risk of overdose, serious health complications, and death are much higher among heroin users.
People have also found ways to abuse OxyNEO. A quick search on google will show you how to remove the plastic coating responsible for creating its gummy consistency.
Approaching Substance Use Differently
Simply removing or changing a substance does not counteract substance abuse or addiction issues within a community. People struggling with substance dependency will find other ways to stimulate their experiences while using substances. Not only is the adoption of substances like Heroin more dangerous, but heroin’s withdrawal symptoms can also be life-threatening.
It’s difficult to know what stance you should take on issues like this, especially when authorities are so divided on solutions for people with mental health and addictions. Who do you believe? How do you know who is right and wrong? The truth is you can’t be black-and-white about it. There were likely some people who went into recovery after Oxycontin was taken off the market, meaning that the change worked for some. Additionally, not everyone prescribed Oxycontin in the past developed a dependency to it or the other painkillers than have been around for years. For this reason, unique, individualized approaches to opioid addictions are more effective than simply wiping something off the shelf (alcohol prohibition in the United States is a good example of this).