A recent study has shown that since the new non-crushable form of OxyContin hit the streets two years ago, the number of addicts who have switched to Opana has increased.
Rather than seeing an overall reduction in the number of overdose deaths associated with opioids, recent death tolls have merely been associated with Opana rather than OxyContin. In Kentucky Opana was present in the toxicology reports of 23% of overdose victims in 2011, just when OxyContin was reformulated. Sgt. John McGuire, Director of the Prescription Drug Diversion Unit at the Louisville, KY Metro Police Department has seen the quick switch to Opana first hand. He explains that addicts tried to find ways to still snort or inject the new OxyContin by pounding it with hammers or soaking it in acid. “At first, people tried to defeat it,” he said. “Then, Opana started to pop up like crazy.”
Despite the evidence that changing OxyContin had negative spill over effects, the same is being done with Opana as the crush-resistant version of it was approved late last year, and is close to being out into circulation. Tantamount to the game whack-a-mole, where as soon as one mole is whacked another pops up, chasing after each popular opioid seems an impossible feat. With crushable OxyContin and Opana now absent, evidence suggests that addicts will switch to what is left: fentanyl, dilauded and heroin. As DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs asserts “They will adapt the same way drug traffickers or criminals will adapt to a new law. They are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction…When they either can’t get those particular pharmaceuticals or can’t afford them, they now gravitate to heroin.”
Just as Agent Boggs stated, recent studies show that although abuse of other oxycodone products rose slightly after OxyContin was reformulated, it wasn’t anywhere near as steeply as the abuse of more powerful opioids.This suggests that with the reformulated version of Opana, drug users won’t revert back to something weaker, but stronger – which serves a reminder that addiction is a progressive disease often curtailed by alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers that help remove addicts from all drugs, crushable or not.