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Author Archives: watchdog
Six years ago, very shortly after my brother Pat’s death of a heroin overdose, I decided that I wanted to do something to increase awareness about the epidemic of prescription painkiller and opiate addiction in America today. The Oxy Watchdog blog, launched just a few months after Pat passed away, was intended to be a place where people could come to learn more about a problem that is increasingly affecting families across the nation. But it became much more than that. Through the blog, many people from various walks of life reached out to me and shared their own stories. Sometimes these stories were from other families who had lost loved ones, filling me with sadness at the tragic loss of life and the horrors of addiction. Sometimes these stories were from chronic pain sufferers who were indignant at what they saw as my mission to interfere with their medications. Sometimes these stories were from addicts themselves who spoke openly about their own challenges and the heartbreak their drug use had caused them.
“OxyContin In Your Words” stories are unedited accounts of OxyContin and heroin addiction. Help us break through the shame of addiction and share your own story. Confidentiality, if requested, is assured.
I’d like to share my son Jeremy’s story in the hopes that maybe his story will help someone else who is dealing with an addiction to either Oxy or anything else or if you have lost someone from OxyContin.
Jeremy entered the drug scene pretty much the usual way most kids do. He started drinking alcohol on the weekends at friend’s houses when he was around 15 or 16 years old. It wasn’t causing any noticeable problems with him or his school and grades. We didn’t even know about it at the time. Then when he was around 16 years old, he started smoking pot while drinking. When he was first caught with weed on him, as parents, we did the usual things parents do when they find out their kid is smoking pot. We talked about the dangers of it and how it is the “gateway” to other drugs. We grounded him and took away his car. (Looking back I laugh at that. Like that was going to work if a kid wants to do something.) Jeremy made all the good sounding promises to us about never doing it again.
You may remember Watchdog contributor Jaime Messina, who blew the whistle on OxyContin way back in 2003 as a student at Northeastern University – a full four years before Purdue shelled out $634.5 million for lying about the painkiller’s addictive qualities. Here, she weighs in on “OxyMorons,” a new film about Oxy’s devastating effects in the Boston area.
Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to view the film “OxyMorons,” a low-budget indie film that portrays the life of an OxyContin dealer in the small community of Charlestown, Mass. The film – which is written by, starring and about Johnny Hickey – takes place in the early 2000s, when the Oxy addiction epidemic in Massachusetts was first starting to rear its head. Hickey, who has since cleaned up his life, was able to write an excellent screenplay based on his experiences. As someone who has been aware of and has personally seen the devastation OxyContin can cause, I was excited to hear that such a film was produced, and I highly anticipated its limited release at a theater in Revere, Mass., just north of the town in which it takes place.
Two large bottles of liquid oxycondone proved a powerful visual for the practice of over-prescribing pain medication that leads to or aids in prescription drug abuse at Wednesday’s panel presentation discussing the growing national trend, hosted by Chico State University in California.
The three-hour panel presentation was put together by Not in our Town Glenn County, managed by Jim Bettencourt and attend by 60 students, parents and community members. OxyWatchdog contributor Esmeralda F. Ramirez was there to hear what the panel had to say.
According to Bettencourt, the irresponsibility of doctors prescribing an excess of a drug is not uncommon and many physicians do not screen patients to see what is in their bodies. When a patient in pain is asking for a large amount of Vicodin, for example, the physician should ask for a simple urine test to check for existing medication in the patient’s system and prescribe the necessary amount of drugs, he said.
When patients want more than what they are prescribed, it’s a sign that they have become addicted, said Salvadore Biondolillo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is sponsoring this Saturday’s Take-Back Day. A classic example, he said, is a patient that has been taking hydrocodone, then switches to oxycodone, then OxyContin, and finally to heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription drugs.
OxyWatchdog has started a Memory Wall remembering those who have died due to OxyContin and heroin addiction. If you would like your loved one to be included, please email a picture in .jpg format, as well as a brief description, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Chico State University student has written a compelling editorial on the OxyContin abuse epidemic at the school after his friend died of an Oxy overdose. He notes that Oxy “was created to help patients incapacitated by pain to live somewhat normal lives, not to get people high,” but says “the latter seems to be the more common application of OxyContin.” He goes on to ask, “how can the pharmaceutical companies defend the production of OxyContin when we already have a wide selection of alternatives?…Until this dangerous status quo is realized and the reins are brought in on prescription painkillers, we’ll continue to hear stories like my friend’s.”
Speaking of news coverage of opioid-related deaths, Massachusetts television station WCVB is set to air a show on the OxyContin and heroin epidemic that is ravaging the suburban Brockton area of the state, WickedLocal.com reports. The show underscores the findings of the Enterprise, another local media outlet, which has engaged in extensive coverage of the region’s opiate death toll. Check out the Enterprise’s online presentations on the epidemic at Wasted Youth and Wasted Youth – Deadly Surge – the coverage is sad, disturbing, and highly informative.
The WCVB show, “Hooked in the Suburbs,” can be viewed in three segments here:
The spike in deaths from opioid drugs such as OxyContin may be linked to the volume of coverage such deaths receive in the news, according to a recent study by Children’s Hospital Boston and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
The study, which compared patterns of opioid deaths and patterns of news coverage between 1999 and 2005 – during which mortality rates from opioid abuse doubled – found that spikes in media coverage often preceded an increase in deaths, suggesting that media coverage may have influenced opioid abuse. The researchers assert that the way in which some stories are presented can pique the curiosity of those inclined to drug experimentation, and suggest that journalists withhold specific details of opioid abuse so as not to attract “copycats.”
Point taken, although Watchdog maintains that more information is always better than less information.
Former University of Maryland addiction researcher Carrie John died in September after injecting what she thought was buprenorphine. However, a syringe provided to police by her fiance Clinton McCracken showed no trace of the narcotic, indicating that the drugs the couple bought from New Mikee Online Pharmacy, a Web site based in the Philippines, might have been tainted, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The finding comes as the international police agency Interpol and the World Health Organization coordinated a crackdown on online drug sales worldwide, resulting in 72 Web sites being taken down and the confiscation of 167,000 illicit and counterfeit pills, according to the paper.
As a side note, shortly before John’s death, U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent McCracken a letter saying that agents had intercepted a FedEx parcel of morphine and OxyContin, the paper says.
OxyContin is the driving force behind a five-fold increase in opiod-related deaths over the last two decades, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found.
Among the study’s key findings:
* From 1991 to 2007, annual prescriptions for opioids increased from 458 to 591 per 1000 individuals
* Opioid-related deaths doubled from 13.7 per million in 1991 to 27.2 per million in 2004
* Prescriptions of oxycodone increased by 850 percent between 1991 and 2007
* Long-acting oxycodone was associated with a 41 percent increase in overall opioid-related mortality
* The manner of death was deemed unintentional by the coroner in 54.2 percent of cases and undetermined
in 21.9 percent of cases.
Interestingly, the study also found that use of health care services in the month before death was common:
of the 3066 patients for whom data on physician visits were available, 66.4 percent had visited a physician
in the month before death; of the 1095 patients for whom individual-level prescribing data were available, 56.1 percent had filled a prescription for an opioid in the month before death.
Read Watchdog’s prior coverage of the Canadian OxyContin crisis here.