By: Nicole Seguin
Last week the New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM) brought to light a saddening issue about addiction and pharmaceutical pain medication, namely OxyContin. While this is an important issue to raise for public discussion, I found that the media coverage of this story lacked some context. Our society is still developing our understanding of addiction, be it of illicit substances or the abuse of pharmaceutical medication, and so we need to constantly evaluate and reevaluate our policies on this issue. Those policies have national, and international, consequences.
The pharmaceutical painkiller OxyContin contains oxycodone, which, like heroin, is derived from opium poppies. Since its introduction a growing number of patients prescribed the substance, as well as people who bought the drug illegally, have become addicted. This has prompted the manufacturer to change the formula of the OxyContin pill in 2010 to make it more difficult to inject or inhale. After the formula was changed, the name of the drug was changed as well, to OxyNeo. The letter published by NJEM showed that since the change to the formula, rates of opioid substance abuse, and the substance used, changed drastically. Those who identified OxyContin as their primary drug used dropped by over 20% just one year later. Over the same time period, use of other opioids such as Fentanyl and hydromorphone rose by over 12%. The substance used to 'get high' in the past month was also asked of respondents, and use of heroin was found to have almost doubled. Read more »
The province is placing new restrictions on people's access to the prescription painkiller OxyContin in an effort to curb the illegal use of the drug.
OxyContin, a derivative of the opium poppy, is highly addictive and known on the street as "Hillbilly Heroin" because of the narcotic effects it produces.
The illegal sale of the drug has been increasing on the streets of Winnipeg in recent years.
A single tablet can sell for as little as $5, depending on available supply. In rural areas of Manitoba, the drug is often sold for much more, sometimes as high as $40 per dose.Read more »
Specifically, Goard said there has been an increase in the use of OxyContin, a medication generally prescribed for the relief of severe pain.
Sault pharmacist Manuel dos Reis, in response to a question about mortality rates related to use of prescription opioid painkillers locally, said, "Guaranteed. I have had patients pass away from overdoses. That is not anything new."