Nothing to Fear but Pain Itself
Are You Opio-Phobic?
How It's Abused continued...
The drug's special formulation allows for an immediate release
into the bloodstream followed by "12 hours of slow release, so each pill
lasts for 12 hours," says Carducci.
Abusers of the drug discovered that if extended-release
OxyContin pills were ground up and snorted or injected, the user could, in
effect, get the entire 12 hours' worth of drug at one time, resulting in a much
more intense high. Such use has been blamed for around 100 deaths nationwide
and prompted the FDA last month to strengthen warnings on the drug's label,
likening it to morphine. The agency also mailed letters to doctors,
pharmacists, and other healthcare providers alerting them of its potential for
And just last week, manufacturer Purdue Pharma announced its
plans to reformulate the drug in an effort to discourage such abuse. The new
form of OxyContin -- available in three to five years -- will come mixed with
tiny beads of naltrexone, a drug that counteracts the effects of narcotics and
is used to treat heroin addiction. The naltrexone is designed to be inactive as
long as the pill is intact -- crush it, however, and the high-busting
naltrexone is released.
While the torrent of news stories about OxyContin abuse has
certainly raised public awareness of this deadly new drug trend, it's also
fanned the flames of opio-phobia, say critics.
As the point man in implementing new federally mandated
pain-control measures at Johns Hopkins, Carducci says he deals daily with the
results of painkiller paranoia.
"I am implementing this plan in which all patients are
asked if they have pain, and then a pain care plan is started," he says.
"Now it makes that job even harder because people are afraid to take drugs
New Drug, Old Fears
Many pain experts are concerned that scary headlines are making
opio-phobia worse, says Daniel Bennett, MD, a Denver-based pain management
specialist. Bennett, co-founder of the National Pain Foundation, recently
joined other pain specialists for an international symposium on the problem of
irrational fear of opioid drugs.
Much of the attention being paid to OxyContin abuse is silly
because very similar drugs like "MS-Contin have been around for 10 years or
longer," he says, with no attendant bad media.