More than two months after Ontario took Oxycontin off the shelves, replacing it with a more tamper-resistant form called OxyNEO, there are signs that Canadian drug users are trying to adapt this pill to fill the void left by Oxycontin. According to TheProvince.com, on various websites, users are sharing recipes on how to "crack the code" of the new OxyNEO.
The new drug is designed to turn to a gel when dissolved in liquid, so it cannot be pulled into a syringe. Toronto public health officials are trying to encourage clients not to break down OxyNEO, "because we don't really know what the impact is of injecting a gel formulation into someone's veins."
In Ottawa, police report the street supplies of Oxycontin are waning, and the use of fentanyl is up. Ottawa Police Staff Sgt. Mike Laviolette said, "We've seen an increase in the number of seizures, particularly at the street level, and a lot of trafficking in fentanyl patches."
There has been no evidence of the mass withdrawal that was feared before Oxycontin was taken off the shelves. Province-wide weekly surveillance in Ontario has not found a sudden significant run on detox and addiction treatment services, or increases in overdoses. Some reports suggest that users have switched to fentanyl or heroin, although a health ministry spokesperson said, "It's not significant, it's not a major increase just yet."
Advocates of OxyNEO argue that the tamper-proof cap will dissuade users fro snorting and injecting the drug. Others argue that this new formula could lead some doctors to believe this drug cannot be abused, therefore they may be more liberal in prescribing this opiate. OxyNEO has the same analgesic properties as Oxycontin and can still be abused by swallowing heavy doses. Some doctors think that addicts will do this, rather than trying to follow the complicated online instructions for extracting the oxycodone for injection. Dr. Irfan Dhalla said, "If you're swallowing the tablet whole, it really won't make any difference whether you're swallowing Oxycontin or OxyNEO."
The OxyNEO formulation has been available in the US for two years. Three ongoing studies released by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of OxyNEO, say there has been a reduction in the street price of this new formulation, a drop in Oxycontin-related reports to poison control, and a 50% decrease in Oxycontin abuse rates among opiate addicts entering treatment since this new formulation was introduced in 2010. During this same two year period, there was a 134% increase in abuse of the painkiller Opana. One doctor says he is cautious about any reports that are produced by the drug's manufacturer.
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