Prescription drug use has, for the past several years, been the nation's fastest growing and most dangerous drug epidemic.
As deaths and hospitalizations continue to be on the rise in almost every state, legislatures and hospitals are working together to try to find ways to reduce the number of addictions and overdoses due to these dangerous drugs.
In the past, the most common and lethal prescription drug that was being abused was a drug called Oxycontin, which is an opiate and a prescription painkiller. As of late, however, a new drug, entitled Opana, which is the brand name of a prescription drug called oxymorphone.
What is Oxymorphone
Oxymorphone, like many other highly addictive prescription painkillers is a an opiate, which means that it is derived from the same plant as heroin. Like heroin, it can lead a user to become dependent on it after as little as one use and poses a very grave risk of death by overdose. Opana is a drug that is generally prescribed for very limited use by doctors who are treating patients after surgery or a major injury.
The Rise of Opana Stemmed From Regulations on Oxycontin
As many law enforcement officials and doctors have worked tirelessly to place strict limits on the ways in which prescription drugs and heroin are available for illicit use, many drug addicts have found alternate means of procuring the substances they are dependent on.
This has been evidenced in areas where efforts were made to curb the availability of heroin in some areas and prescription drug use has been on the rise, and vice versa in areas where very strict controls have been placed on the availability of prescription drugs.
In recent years, at the urging of government and health officials, the manufacturers of the drug Oxycontin changed its formula in order to make it much more difficult for users to crush pills or dissolve them while trying to get high. Many addiction epidemic specialists believe that in the wake of the newly manufactured pills, many people who were addicted to Oxycontin switched to Opana.
Jeffrey Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island Counsel on Alcohol and Drug Dependence has likened the situation to being, "Like a game of Whac-A-Mole. You get a handle on Oxycontin, tehy switch to Opana."
Opana Formula Changed
Manufacturers of Opana have followed suit and changed their formula in the same way that Oxycontin was changed, in an effort to curb snorting and chopping up of tablets. While this may help slow the tide of users who are abusing the drug, many health officials worry that this will only work to increase the number of people who are using heroin.
Fighting the War on Opiates
It is universally acknowledged that successfully fighting the war on opiate abuse will require tremendous patience, intelligence, and a multi-pronged approach.
Many health advocates have pushed for an successfully passed legislation that helps doctors to recognize the signs of a patient who has a problem with addiction and pharmacists have greater access to a network of information that shows whether a patient has attempted to fill a dangerous prescription at a number of locations.
Law enforcement agents are working at every level, from stopping dealers on the streets, to working at a federal level to stop the trafficking of drugs like heroin before they enter the United States. Other programs are designed to help educate children and teens about the dangers of opiates in the hopes that they may be able to reduce the instances of people who try the drugs in the first place.