Although Oxycontin is no longer available in Ontario, its ban is leaving a whole new set of problems in its wake. According to TheWhig.com, Ron Shore, director of Kingston Community Health Centers said, "I've never seen anything like this. This is the biggest shift in drug consumption patterns, I imagine, in Ontario's history because you have tens of thousands of people who use Oxycontin are switching into other narcotics."
Shore also said that most of the people addicted to the painkiller are "novices when it comes to other drugs." Last month, Oxycontin was replaced with a more tamper-resistant formula, OxyNeo. According to Shore, other drugs are filling the void left by Oxycontin. Fentanyl, which is an opiate in a patch form, is now highly sought after, and some users are turning to heroin and even crystal meth. Shore said, "The big problem is a lot of these people weren't involved in the illicit market before. They were either getting Oxycontin from a physician or they were buying a pharmaceutical pill illicitly, but it was always a pharmaceutical pill. Now imagine trying to boil down a Fentanyl patch or inject heroin, and you've never done that before. So the risk of overdose is much higher on all these other drugs, especially heroin."
Shore has also seen an emergence of crystal meth on the market. He explains, "For people who cannot obtain another opioid, they may transfer into another drug classification." (I can personally attest to the fact that crystal meth does make you forget about opiate withdrawal symptoms, a little.) Shore also claims there has been an increase in his agency's methadone treatment centers, which are now filled to capacity.
Although Oxycontin is no longer available from a pharmacy, it can still be obtained on the illicit market, but the price has doubled. Shore said, "There's a surplus of it, there's a pool that's still in circulation."
Not only are people turning to other drugs, they are also finding ways to circumvent OxyNeo's safeguards. Shore said, "We're also seeing and hearing clients reporting a 'workaround' for OxyNeo, which means people have figured out multiple methods to break down the OxyNeo into a substance they can either inject or snort, and that involves using either a microwave or freezer or breaking it down with the use of another chemical powder."
Shore does admit that this situation has made doctors more knowledgable to help patients cope with pain. He said, "A lot of physicians are doing good work to try and maintain people from getting into the illicit market, treat the previous Oxycontin, treat chronic pain, so there are a lot of physicians trying to continue to treat people using other tools and opioids."
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