C.J. Coomer got good grades and played football when he was in high school in Houston, but when his mother moved to be near family in a rural area of Indiana, C.J. began hanging with a crowd that abused prescription drugs. According to MSNBC.com , he lost 50 pounds, could not work, and was constantly borrowing money. Lat July, C.J. tried Opana, a relatively new prescription painkiller containing oxymorphone. He overdosed and died at the age of 24.
Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in rural America. Death from prescription drug use now outnumbers deaths from cocaine and heroin combined in those areas. According to the Centers For Disease Control, rural residents are nearly twice as likely to overdose on prescription pills than people in big cities.
Opana is the newest drug that seems to be causing problems and death in rural areas. At least nine people have died so far this year in Scott County, Indiana, and most of those deaths involved the use of Opana. Before 2011, only about 20% of deaths referred to the coroner were overdose deaths, and most of those were suicides rather than accidents. Last year, prescription drug overdoses accounted for nearly half of the deaths in the county.
Law enforcement officials are shocked at the rise in deaths as a result of Opana. Opana is more potent per milligram than Oxycontin, and users can easily overdose if they are not familiar with the drug’s strength. Opana is known by street names like “the O-Bomb,” “stop signs,” and the “new blues.” The drug is often either crushed and snorted or injected. Crushing the pill destroys its extended release properties, thus delivering a potent dose of the pain killing medication all at once.
When drug makers reformulated Oxycontin, making it harder to crush and inject, many people switched to Opana, as they searched for an immediate release formula. Endo Pharmaceuticals, the producer of Opana, announced in December that they would also reformulate the drug to make it harder to abuse. The new formula is now being manufactured. The old form of Opana is still available, and police report a rise in pharmacy and home break-ins, as addicts look to get their fix. Fort Wayne, Indiana reported eleven pharmacy robberies due to Opana since Endo announced it would change the formula of the drug. Some users are simply turning to heroin, which often requires driving many miles to a larger city to obtain the drug.
The Opana problem has been reported around the country, and Florid is also having a significant problem with abuse of Opana. Some users get the drug from “pill-mills,” while others simply get a prescription from their doctor. Some users buy the pills from those who have a prescription, often seniors looking to supplement their fixed income.
Parts of Scott County, Indiana are riddled with poverty. One expert claims these drugs create a vicious cycle of poverty, as users are often unable to hold down a job. One reason for the rise of prescription pill abuse is the notion that these pills can fix anything, pain, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Furthermore, doctors can be very irresponsible about prescribing strong painkillers when they are not really needed.
Image courtesy of Bluelight.