Increase in the Illegal Use of the Prescription Painkiller
An alarming increase in the illegal use of the prescription painkiller OxyContin has been observed in Ventura County. Several deaths have recently been attributed to abuse of this powerful drug.
OxyContin packs multiple doses of a very powerful opiate-based drug into one time-release tablet. When crushed and snorted, or dissolved and injected, it releases powerful opiates designed for the extended 12-hour relief of severe pain, into one extremely powerful dose. When the powerful high later appears to be tapering off, the abuser may be tempted to take another dose, well before the first dose has actually worn off.
This active ingredient, Oxycodone, suppresses the body's ability to sense carbon dioxide, which regulates breathing. An overdose of "Oxy" will cause the user to simply stop breathing. Combining OxyContin with alcohol or other drugs can have tragic results.
Oxycodone abuse leads quickly to addiction. Withdrawal is severe, similar to heroin. Abusers finding themselves dependent on OxyContin may switch to heroin when "Oxy" becomes unavailable. A recent upsurge in heroin abuse may be linked to OxyContin abuse.
Illegal sale of "Oxy" is very profitable. One tablet costs about $4 by prescription but sells for $$20 to $40 on the street.
Abuse of prescription drugs is not new. What sets OxyContin apart is the dangerous potency of the drug, and correspondingly, the speed with which an OxyContin "epidemic" has developed in some communities. Recent tragic experiences in Ventura County confirm that "Oxy" abuse exists in our community.
All of us must help raise community awareness of the serious dangers associated with abuse of this very powerful drug. Young people are particularly vulnerable. Until the public has been made completely aware of the high risks of abusing OxyContin, further tragedies remain likely.