As Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin -- the most popular brand name of oxycodone-- has been forced to make their popular opiate drug less abusable, there is evidence that former users of this powerful opiate are turning to heroin to get high.
An article from September 23, 2012 published in the Bangor Daily News reports that the Maine DEA Commander, Darrell Crandall has seen a lot more heroin in certain areas of his state than previously. His observations were confirmed by a supervisor with MDEA's Cumberland District Task Force who is also a Portland Police Department Sergeant, Kevin Cashman. Cashman said, "It does seem like heroin has come back in a pretty strong way." There were three deaths due to heroin overdoses in just three weeks prior to this article's publication in Cumberland County, as well as several non-lethal overdoses.
Also in Maine, a Sagadahoc County undercover drug investigator said the change in the oxycodone drug formula designed to make it more abuse-resistant may have prompted some users to switch to heroin. Users preferred oxycodone to heroin, in part, he said, because "it's like heroin, but you knew what you were getting," since the pills are manufactured according to a pharmaceutical formula and the exact dosage is marked on the pill. "But a change in the formula causes the pill to turn to gel when it comes in contact with moisture such as when an addict mixes it with water to inject it," he said.
Opiate Abuse in US
Opiates such as oxycodone are highly addictive and have found a particularly lucrative market in the US, particularly for non-medical abuse. Many different formulations of oxycodone have been marketed including: Oxycocet, Endocet, OxyFast, Oxygesic, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicodone and Roxicet. The most popular was certainly OxyContin, in that it was a time-release formula, made to last longer than some of the other formulations. However, while that formula was originally designed to make it less abuse-prone, that didn't turn out to be the case. Abusers found an easy way to get around the time-release formulation so the drug would release its full effects on the body within minutes. The resulting high was said to be similar to heroin.
In fact, users who abuse oxycodone may also use other similar drugs such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, hydromorphone or oxymorphone. The signs of oxycodone abuse are quite a bit like those of other opiates including heroin, both physically and emotionally. Users may exhibit drowsiness, heavy sedation to the point of sleep; they may appear to be sedated, euphoric, or have constricted pupils. However, an overdose may cause dilated pupils. One can suffer from low blood pressure, constipation, headaches, dry mouth and sweating as well as respiratory suppression.
It is usually respiratory suppression that causes unintentional overdose death of opiate users. There is an even higher risk of an accidental overdose when one uses an opiate along with any other drug that can also suppress respiration, like alcohol, benzodiazepines or other opiates.
Fewer Oxycodone Deaths Reported in Florida in 2011
According to an October 24, 2012 report in Florida, fewer people died in 2011 from oxycodone overdoses, the first decrease in prescription painkiller deaths in six years. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that there were 1,247 oxycodone-related deaths last year, as compared with 1,516 such deaths in 2010. Although this is good news regarding oxycodone deaths, it isn't the full picture. Oxycodone deaths still outnumbered the overdose deaths from morphine (345), cocaine (604), and hydrocodone (307) in 2011. Additionally the total number of all drug-related deaths last year was 9,135, up from 9,001 in 2010.
Hope for Addicts at Narconon Centers Worldwide
When one has an opiate addiction, he needs to get effective help right away. Fortunately, at Narconon centers in fifty locations worldwide, this help is available. The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program encompasses several steps from handling the physical aspects of addiction to the root causes for drug abuse.
Narconon offers a drug-free program which has helped tens of thousands of addicts to get free of drugs for good. The eight-step program includes a relatively tolerable withdrawal period, a unique detox on the Narconon New Life Detoxification Program and several like skills training courses. A Narconon student who has gotten through the physical addiction then studies how to rebuild his life. He learns life skills which allow him to function without the need to return to drugs as an escape. In fact, seven of ten Narconon graduates remain drug-free at least two years following completion of the program. This is one of the highest lasting sobriety rates of any rehab program.