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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Abuse Resistant Opioids Fuel Heroin Use

It has become evident that the fight against prescription opioids has fueled a rise in heroin use across the United States. It is not surprising that adding tamper resistant features to medications like OxyContin (oxycodone) would force prescription drug addicts to turn towards traditional opiates like heroin. While the price of prescription opioids continues to rise and become harder to abuse, addicts have no choice but to turn to cheaper heroin, which provides a comparable euphoric high, according to the Washington Post.

Theodore Cicero, a psychiatry professor at Washington University in St. Louis, co-authored a 2012 study, which found that reformulating OxyContin, making the drug abuse resistant, caused heroin use to nearly double. “Absolutely, much of the heroin use you’re seeing now is due in large part to making prescription opioids a lot less accessible,’’ says Cicero.

Cicero said that policymakers “did the best they could at the time”, but failed to have a plan in order to combat the inevitable switch from prescription opioids to heroin. He goes on to say that, “there were signs years ago that this was going to happen, and there was just a lot of inaction.” Pharmaceutical companies were allowed to flood the market with high potency narcotics that could easily be tampered with for years, the government acted on the problem but lacked sufficient foresight into the plague that would follow in the form of heroin. Cicero believes that the government could have put more energy into the promotion of drugs like Narcan (naloxone) that has been proven to save lives in the event of a heroin overdose.

What’s more, the government was aware that their fight against drugs like OxyContin would mean a spike in heroin use. In fact, in 2002 the Justice Department’s drug intelligence arm pointed out the unintended ramifications of a war on prescription drugs. “As initiatives taken to curb the abuse of OxyContin are successfully implemented, abusers of OxyContin . . . also may begin to use heroin, especially if it is readily available, pure, and relatively inexpensive.’’
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