Addressing OxyContin Abuse – Brief Article
Abuse of the prescription pain reliever OxyContin has escalated over the last year, particularly in rural areas of the eastern United States. FDA experts are discussing strategies to curb OxyContin abuse with the drug’s manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P., Stamford, Conn., and several federal agencies, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. At the same time, the FDA is working closely with Purdue Pharma to ensure that patients who need OxyContin still have access to it.
The FDA approved OxyContin in 1995 to treat chronic, moderate to severe pain. The drug is designed to be swallowed whole to slowly release the drug’s active ingredient, oxycodone, over a 12-hour period. But abusers often chew the tablets, crush them and snort the powder, or dissolve them in water and inject the drug for a fast high. OxyContin abusers sometimes commit fraud and theft to sustain their habits. Forgery or alteration of prescriptions is known to occur.
In some cases OxyContin can be obtained easily in clinics; for a brief visit and the appropriate presenting complaint, patients may leave with a prescription for OxyContin. Many physicians are not formally trained to identify drug-seeking behavior.
Several deaths have resulted from OxyContin abuse in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia, though the exact number is unknown. Some of these deaths have been associated with OxyContin along with other pain relievers, drugs for anxiety and sleep disorders, marijuana, and alcohol.
Purdue Pharma announced in May that it is temporarily suspending shipments of the highest dosage of the drug (160 milligram tablet) until it has studied the illicit use of OxyContin further.
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