Monthly Archives: September 2011

Oxy Watchdog interview on KCAL9

Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly visited KCAL9 in Los Angeles Thursday to talk about the rising trend of prescription drug addiction in teens and young adults, and how many of them are turning to heroin as a result. Read more here.

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$4M prescription drug ring nabbed in Fla.

In an example of just how widespread and lucrative the illegal market for prescription drugs is, authorities in Florida have rounded up 41 of of 72 suspects in the second phase of an investigation known as “Operation No Appointment Necessary.” As a result of the probe, which began in 2010, detectives collected over 4,000 fraudulent prescriptions bearing the names of over 700 different suspects. Investigators estimate more than 400,000 oxycodone 30-milligram tablets were obtained by fraudulent means between October of 2009 and July 2010. A conservative “street value” of these pills is estimated to exceed $4 million, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. And that’s just a drop in the bucket, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Alfonso told the St. Petersburg Times.

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New Oxy leads addicts to Opana, other opiates

Purdue Pharma’s introduction of its new formulation of OxyContin, OP, hasn’t done much to curb the opiate addiction crisis – but is anyone surprised? (The company admitted when it launched OP that “there is no evidence that the reformulation of OxyContin is less subject to misuse, abuse, diversion, overdose or addiction.”) Not only are addicts already figuring out ways to abuse OP – as evidenced by a simple Google search – they’re also increasingly turning to other prescription drugs that contain oxycodone. This is likely why we’ve been hearing more about Percocet 30s and Roxycodone, as well as the painkiller Opana. A recent case out of Minnesota highlights this growing trend, with the Department of Justice stating that Opana abuse “has become increasingly more prevalent since OxyContin, which contains the related opiate oxycodone, was altered to discourage abuse.” And don’t forget about heroin, which is cheaper than prescription opiates and provides the same high. Not exactly the easy fix Purdue was hoping for, is it?

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OxyContin Activists: Jodi Barber and Christine Brant

Jodi Barber and Christine Brant (far right and far left in the picture) of Laguna Niguel, Calif. are the brains behind “Overtaken,” a short documentary educating young adults on the truth about prescription drug addiction and the often deadly consequences pills have. Oxy Watchdog caught up with the two moms just ahead of the film’s release on Sept. 22.

Watchdog: How did you get involved in the issue of prescription drug addiction?

JB: This mission started 20 months ago when my 19-year-old son Jarrod died on Jan. 8, 2010 after overdosing on prescription pills. He had a quarter of an Opana pill he had bought from a kid he knew, and he crushed it, melted it, and inhaled the fumes. He also had drugs in his system from his own doctor – Seroquel, Cymbalta, and Klonopin.

CB: The most deadly of those was the Opana, and many kids don’t understand that when you break them in half or crush them or split them between friends, it removes the time-release coating and it’s all dumped into your system at one time.

W: How common is prescription drug abuse in your community? How many deaths have there been, and who is dying?

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The disease model of addiction

A new documentary called “Curing Addiction” calls into question the idea that addiction is an incurable disease. It argues that the current treatment system has been set up for people to fail, telling addicts that they are hopelessly diseased for life when that is not the case. Similarly, this NPR column explores the notion that addiction is a disorder of choice, stating that “the distinctive hallmark of addiction is the fact that in addiction the normal interplay…between choice, value and preference breaks down.”

It’s an interesting question, and one that seems to be complicated by the powerful changes opiates like OxyContin make to the brain.

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OxyContin Activists: Amy Nicole Graves

Amy Nicole Graves of Nova Scotia, Canada lost her 21-year-old brother Josh to an accidental overdose of the prescription painkiller Dilaudid (hydromorphone) in March 2011. She has since become an outspoken activist against prescription drug addiction through her website “Get Prescription Drugs Off the Streets.” Oxy Watchdog asked Graves to share about her efforts to bring more education and awareness to the issue of pill abuse.

Watchdog: Tell us about your brother Josh and what happened to him.

Amy Graves: It’s interesting because growing up, Josh wasn’t the addict in my family, it was actually our other brother who struggled with an addiction to prescription drugs. At the time he died, Josh wasn’t having any problems in his life. He had just gotten a new car, he got a great job transfer [back to our home town], he was looking for a mortgage. He had only been home four weeks when he attended a party with dealer who had sold drugs to my other brother. Josh split a Dilaudid pill with him. He was already intoxicated, and because he wasn’t a regular user, he had no tolerance. The combination with alcohol slowed down his heart rate and he never woke up.

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Study calls into question long-term opioid therapy

With all the stories of addiction and overdose deaths, it sometimes seems crazy that powerful prescription painkillers like OxyContin are still considered to be viable options for the treatment of people who aren’t, say, dying of cancer. Now, a new study appears to back that up that thinking. The risks of prescribing painkillers like OxyContin for long-term use in patients with chronic, non-cancer pain could outweigh the benefits of such treatment, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found. The increase in prescribing opioids to manage this type of pain “has been accompanied by alarming increases in diversion of prescription opioids, opioid misuse and abuse, and fatal overdoses involving prescription opioids,” leading the study’s authors to conclude that clinicians should err on the side of caution when considering this treatment.

It will be interesting to see how the pain management community responds to this new information.

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OxyContin Activists: Brad DeHaven

Brad DeHaven of Granite Bay, Calif. considered himself a typical suburban father: he coached his two boys’ soccer, baseball and football teams, helped with their homework, and did everything he could to instill a good work ethic and be a positive influence in their lives. But all that came crashing down when his older son, Brandon, became addicted to OxyContin in high school. DeHaven’s first book, “Defining Moments: A Suburban Father’s Journey Into His Son’s Oxy Addiction,” tells of the great lengths DeHaven went to in an attempt to help his son – including going undercover in a dangerous drug bust – and of how Brandon’s addiction affected the whole family. Oxy Watchdog spoke to DeHaven about how OxyContin led his family down an unimaginable path, and the book that lays it all bare.

Watchdog: Why did you decide to write a book and go public with your story?

Brad DeHaven: It started out as cathartic writing. I was doing a lot of traveling and had a lot of downtime in airports. It felt like when you’re writing a letter to someone but not really intending to send it out; I was just getting it off my chest. Before I knew it I had 10,000 words, then 20,000, then 30,000. It was like I kept scratching off these scabs I didn’t know were there, and the more I reached inward, the more I discovered about myself and learned what defined me as a person and a father.

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Tougher pill rules pit pain patients against “junkies”

In many areas of the nation struggling with prescription painkiller addiction, measures are being implemented to tighten licensing board rules on treating pain patients. In Washington state, this crackdown has prompted a number of doctors and clinics to stop taking new chronic pain patients who are already on opiates, and in some cases to cut off current pain patients, according to this article. While the new rules don’t apply to patients with injuries, surgery, cancer or people who are dying, there has already been pushback. Some doctors say the rules are too burdensome, while pain patients say they’re being denied the medicines they have come to rely on. Others say the stricter rules will drive desperate pain patients to seek illegal pills on the black market or try risky alternatives.

But the real point of contention here seems to be one of perception. Pain patients don’t like to be perceived as “junkies” – “it’s no fun to go down to one of these druggie centers and stand in line with all these guys with tattoos and pee in a bottle,” one man says in the article. And yet, the perspective of these so-called “junkies” isn’t included. I can guarantee that if it were, this would be a different story. The 25-year-old kid who got started on Oxy at 15 doesn’t want the junkie life to be his reality, any more than the pain patient wishes to be in pain (or, if they admitted it, to be hooked on these powerful medications).

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Florida launches prescription monitoring database

After much delay, Florida’s long-awaited prescription drug monitoring program is finally up and running. Doctors and pharmacists are now required to submit information on each prescription they write for drugs like OxyContin that contain controlled substances within seven days after dispensing. (The state is asking them to voluntarily file information on prescriptions dating back to Dec. 1, 2010, when the law creating the system went into effect.)

A recent study found that deaths caused by oxycodone in the state in 2010 were up by 27.9% as compared with 2009.

Read more about Florida’s struggle with prescription drug addiction here and here.

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