Prescription drug abuse is a big problem in Maine. A 2008 report said that Maine was on the top of the list of states with prescription drug abuse problems. One drug that is commonly abused is OxyContin. It was introduced in 1995 and is a powerful opiate that brought relief to chronic pain sufferers because one pill is able to release medication over a 12 hour period. Unfortunately, one of the reasons why OxyContin is so effective at treating pain is also a reason that it could be easily abused. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to approve another medication which could be just as addictive if not more addictive than OxyContin. Some critics in Maine are questioning the FDA's decision to do this and looking at how it will affect prescription drug abuse in the state.
In an opinion piece in the Morning Sentinel, the author talks about a new drug called Zohydro that the FDA is supposed to approve. The FDA advisory board as well as a group of 28 attorneys general have voiced their opinions on why this may be a bad idea. The article states that this group of attorneys general:
sent a letter to FDA officials asking them to reconsider the approval and force the makers of Zohydro to at least incorporate abuse-deterrent features in the drug. The makers of the drug, Zogenix, are working on a deterrent, but it's unclear whether it will be ready when the drug becomes available, and it certainly isn't required by the FDA.
Abuse deterrents are already being used in OxyContin. The pills now contain a gel substance that prevents the drug capsules from being crushed up and snorted. This was not the case when the drug came out though. Abusers commonly would crush the pills and snort them in order to get the effect that was meant to be spread out over 12 hours for pain relief all at once. Now that this is no longer possible, the author reports that the rates of OxyContin abuse have dropped. OxyContin abuse rates went from 35% to 12.8% in the 21 months after the formula was changed. Unfortunately, this did little to stop opiate abuse as those already addicted to OxyContin moved on to other drugs instead of quitting abusing drugs.
Once OxyContin was introduced to the market, addicts began to use it. The article states that opiate drug abuse in Maine skyrocketed by more than 500% between 1998 and 2001. It is believed that many addicts begin their addiction by abusing OxyContin and prescription painkillers and then moving on to harder drugs like heroin order to feed their addictions. Heroin is typically cheaper than buying OxyContin on the black market.
Some, like the author of this article, fear that with the introduction of this new drug the prescription drug abuse rates will increase once again. Whether addiction begins innocently enough by chronic pain sufferers increasing their dosages until they become addicted or by intentional drug abuse, the stronger the medications that are legally available to people, The more likely addiction is to increase.