Monthly Archives: April 2012

OxyContin Activists: Natalie Costa

Orange County, Calif. may seem like the perfect place to live, but it has a dirty little secret: it’s number two in the country for deaths by prescription drug overdoses. In May 2010, Laguna Niguel resident Natalie Costa was thrust full force into the epidemic when her daughter Brianne called her from her high school, frantic: her good friend, 17-year-old Mark Melkonian, had passed away after overdosing on the painkiller Opana. Costa, who owns a performing arts school, teamed up with director Brent Huff to produce “Behind the Orange Curtain,” a full-length feature documentary that delves into the tragic trend afflicting the affluent area, which has more rehab centers per capita than any other county in the nation. The film premieres at this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival on May 2, and has been chosen by the Film Fund out of 400 films representing 50 countries as one of “five films to see.” Oxy Watchdog caught up with Costa ahead of the premiere for more details on the making of the documentary and the extent of the pill addiction epidemic in Orange County.

Watchdog: Tell us more about why you decided to make this documentary.

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Opiate abuse on the rise among U.S. soldiers

Abuse of prescription drugs and heroin is becoming more common among U.S. troops, with eight American soldiers dying of overdoses during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports recently released to CNN. The number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010, the article says.

Read more about prescription drug addiction among American troops here.

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FDA considers broadening access to opioid overdose treatment

The Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing Thursday to discuss making the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone available over the counter. Although opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a group that seeks to advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, said in a policy brief that naloxone’s status as a prescription drug is one of the key barriers to broader access. And due to its status as a generic medication, producing it does not yield substantial profits, so many pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to manufacture it, the organization noted.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that naloxone has successfully saved the lives of more than 10,000 overdose victims since 1996. However, only 15 states and the District of Columbia currently have naloxone distribution programs. This, despite the fact that nearly 40 Americans die per day from overdoses of prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, according to a recent CDC report.

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Wash. painkiller prescription rules spark debate

Over the last decade, opioid prescriptions have increased nearly four-fold – even though little is known about the risks associated with their long-term use. In Washington state, worries about over-prescription have prompted new guidelines requiring doctors to refer patients taking painkiller dosages above a certain level for evaluation by a pain specialist if they aren’t showing signs of improving. The move has caused waves in the pain management community, with some doctors and patient advocates fearing that it will deprive legitimate pain sufferers of necessary medications. Others have praised the rules, but worry that patients who are suddenly taken off powerful painkillers will experience severe withdrawal.

The death toll from overdoses of narcotic pain relievers such as OxyContin and Opana has more than tripled in the past decade, with more than 40 people dying every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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