Categories
Addiction Heroin Opiates

OxyContin Use Down, Heroin Use On the Rise

When the manufacturers of OxyContin changed their formula in 2010 to lesson its potential for abuse, I don’t think they intended to drive addicts to use other drugs. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. As a result of OxyContin’s new formula being harder to snort or inject, addicts ultimately flocked to the streets. The unfortunate drug of choice: heroin—because it’s easier to obtain and cheaper than its pharmaceutical counterpart.

Dr. Theodore Cicero, professor of neuropharmacology in psychiatry at Washington University, and the principal investigator for a three-year research study of OxyContin use noticed a significant drop in OxyContin use after its formula change.  In fact, “Respondents indicating OxyContin as their primary drug of abuse dropped from 35.6 percent at the start of the study to 12.8 percent now.”   Further, the number of subjects who stated they’d used OxyContin to get high at least once in the last 30 days “fell from 47.4 percent to 30 percent.” Unfortunately, the Washington University team found that their respondents’ use of heroin grew from 5 percent to 15 percent—these numbers nearly tripled during that same 30-day period!

Addicts and drug abusers had clearly moved to the streets, the suburbs, and to heroin. They have essentially migrated toward a drug that is easier to inject or snort, much like the old formulation of OxyContin.  Dr. Cicero compared drug abuse to a “large balloon.” He explains it thusly,  “You press in one area, and the volume doesn’t decrease, it just simply moves to another spot.” This analogy fits well here as we look at the decline in OxyContin use and the increase in heroin use. As Dr. Cicero’s analogy deftly points out, the Oxy problem hasn’t really been solved; it has just been diverted.

While OxyContin is regulated and easily identifiable, heroin is not. In a weird way, you know what you’re getting with Oxy. But let’s be honest, anytime we put something in our arm or in our noses in an effort to alter our mind and body, we are playing the part of lab rat. Heroin is a problem: it’s unpredictable from one source to the next – sometimes it’s nearly pure, increasing one’s potential for an overdose.

The bottom line is the overall increase in opioid use: this is troublesome and growing into an epidemic. While we can treat addicts when they’re ready, how can we prevent addiction or abuse in the first place? Let’s start the conversation before it becomes a problem, taking preventative measures during the early years of our children’s lives: that perfect time when they’re just starting to dip their toes in the burgeoning years of curious adolescence.

Categories
Recovery

Know Your Facts: The Increase in Prescription Drug Abuse

(part 2 of 3)

Monitoring the Future released their latest study, noting that alcohol use was down, but marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and prescription drugs were up. In part one of this series, we focused on marijuana and its synthetic counterparts, bringing attention to the
perceived harmlessness of marijuana and the growing trend toward the use of synthetics. Here, we’ll talk about the rampant use of prescription drugs and the myriad dangers which accompany their use.

When it comes to prescription drugs, the ease of acquisition is often as simple as going through a parents’ or relative’s medicine cabinet, raiding a friend’s house, or simply trading with friends at school or at parties. The use of opioid prescriptions like Oxycontin and Vicodin are rampant…and deadly. As reported in Monitoring the Future’s 2010 National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings, “54% of high-school seniors said ‘opioid drugs other than heroin (e.g., Vicodin) would be fairly easy to get.’” Why are teens using prescription drugs with such frequency? Could it simply be the ease with which they’re obtained? Or is it the built-in societal respect for doctors and their judgment which allows us to look away when the pen flies across the prescription pad.

Take note of the behaviors and physical symptoms which surround prescription drug addiction (via Educate Before You Medicatewww.talkaboutrx.org):

Behavioral signs:

  • Sudden mood changes:
    • Irritability
    • Negativity
    • Personality change
    • Extreme change in friends or hangout locations
    • Lying or being deceitful
      • Skipping school
      • Avoiding eye contact
      • Losing interest in personal appearance, extracurricular activities, sports
      • Sudden changes in appetite
      • Sudden drop in grades and/or academic or athletic involvement
      • Borrowing money or having extra, unexplained cash
      • Acting especially angry or abusive, or engaging in reckless behavior

 Physical Signs and Symptoms (these are varied, depending on the drug being used/abused):

Stimulants can bring about:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia/nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss

Sedatives/depressants can bring about:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma

Opioids can bring about:

  • Sleep deprivation or “nodding.”
  • Pinpoint/constricted pupils, watery or droopy eyes
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Slow, slurred speech
  • Slow gait
  • Dry skin, itching, infections
  • Constant flu-like symptoms
  • Track marks (bruising at injection sites)

The unfortunate, but common misconception is that prescription drug use is safer than illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin: because it’s been prescribed, it’s “okay.” The problem with this ideology is doctors consistently prescribe and sometimes inadvertently over-prescribe narcotics, A: because they work, and B: because it’s easy. What this influx of prescription drugs does, however, is provide an underground stockpile of prescription opioids in the homes of our adolescents and their friends. As patients, start asking for non-narcotic alternatives. It makes no difference to the doctor but it may make the difference of life and death for you or someone in your family.

Start disposing of any unused medications and store those that are necessary in a secured place. Honestly, these days, the medicine cabinet should probably only be used for toothpaste and Tiger Balm.