Canadian OxyContin addicts are scrambling to find alternate opiates now that Purdue Pharma has ceased producing the much abused pain killer. The scope of the problem is stunning to non-addicts.
Approximately one in every three residents, up to 9,000 people in an aboriginal population of 25,000 in northwestern Ontario, are addicted to the painkiller, which is also known as hillbilly heroin. Winnipeg Free Press
Addicts are flocking to Winnipeg’s treatment centres, but they are at capacity.
There is a legitimate replacement painkiller produced to thwart the illegal use of the opiate. OxyNeo is a gel that can’t be powdered for those that snort it and if heated to inject it turns into a tarlike substance. The active ingredients are the same as the phased out pharmaceutical, but the new form makes it much harder to abuse.
Many people get hooked on the painkiller through a legitimate prescription but the medication is addictive and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms lead many to seek street sources. OxyContin.org has an information page that cites interesting facts about this drug.
Much of the widespread addiction problem has been blamed on misleading advertising by Purdue Pharma which was fined USD $600 million in the US for misleading advertising.
This has been building up for some time in Canada. At the large, chain pharmacy where I do business, signs have been posted for quite some time that advise that OxyContin is only available by special order. The British Columbia government medical services will no longer assist in purchasing the phased out opiate. OxyContin has already been replaced in the US.
Physicians are divided about the wisdom of withdrawing the “hillbilly heroin” from the market. The sharp withdrawal from it may prompt many to flood emergency wards looking for relief from their painful addiction. Other physicians don’t want to see a useful tool in pain suppression removed from their arsenal. According to the Ottawa Citizen Canadians are amongst the heaviest users of prescription opiates in the world. They also state that the North American death toll from prescription opiates over the past 25 years has reached 100 000.
For those who cannot tolerate codeine as a pain killer, the choices for immediate short term relief are becoming rare. Morphine is highly restricted in hospitals. Putting medications on the exceptional access program denies surgery patients the rest they need to recover quickly.