Welcome to the new face of addiction that outranks heroin, meth and crack. Except it isn’t a new drug and it isn’t illegal. Oxycontin has been around since the mid-1990s and is made from the poppy plant to produce a feeling of euphoria. But wait, isn’t heroin made from poppy plants? Yes, yes it is.
The picture begins to take shape then as to why this drug is such an issue. Rather than, say, making stronger regulations around the drug itself or spreading awareness to exactly how much of an addiction-leading agent this is, pharmaceutical companies have pushed for wider usage in the name of profit. Doctors prescribe this opiate for generic symptoms such as pain. Even under doctor supervision, this drug has killed plenty, as one acclimates quickly to its effects and thus needs more of the drug itself to overcome the inherent tolerance built. Let’s say you had a major accident, broke multiple bones and got your prescription for this and some other drugs to aid recovery. After the first week, you notice you have doubled your intake because the original prescription was no longer providing enough relief for you to get out of bed in the mornings. On your pill bottle you notice two refills after this one, so you adjust your dosage as needed. No big deal, you’re an adult and after all you are suffering. The doctor did prescribe it.
You notice one day you are out and the pain is excruciating. You need your refill and curse yourself for being so irresponsible in letting the prescription end without securing a refill first, but honestly you thought your pain would be manageable by this point. Refilled and dosed, you are functioning normally again.
Carrying on with your adult life, you adjust to have that last refill completed in time before running out of your second bottle so as to not make the mistake you did the first time. Doctor’s orders and all that. Your refill is set and you go on your way. Then it hits you. Half this bottle is gone in a week, you have tripled or quadrupled your recommended dose and notice a different sort of pain than physical when the drugs wear off. You don’t even realize you are addicted. Before you can count to three, the rest of pill bottle number three is gone and you have managed to gobble down a 3 month supply of legal heroin in half that time. No doctor’s refills for another month and a half. Enter withdrawal. And you thought you were in pain before. This scenario has played out in front of my very eyes.
It is recommended that users be weaned off of this Vicodin substitute as the withdrawal from direct stoppage is too much for patients to handle in the severity of its detoxification. There is no age limit to when this drug is prescribed. Kids can get it from their doctor for breaking a bone, and pharmaceutical companies are the ones pushing doctors to whip that pad out. Abuse of this drug has increased by some 556% in the last decade, and rather than back down or alter course, pharmaceutical companies have decided the best way to counteract its losing effectiveness by inventing a heavier drug by the name of Opana. Who says our healthcare system needs overhaul?
What is the point of this write-up? Simple: Education. Not enough are aware that just because a doctor prescribes something doesn’t mean it’s safe. In most cases, your doctor does not know your biological predisposition to addiction of certain agents much less a random ER third shift worn out physician who has 100 other patients to see that evening. Do your research and, above all, be cautious.