Tag Archives: methadone

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.

Posted in Informational, Rx Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pa. doctors rally for access to prescription monitoring info

In Pennsylvania – where prescription overdose is a leading cause of death among young people – doctors are pushing for access to the state’s prescription monitoring program, which tracks Schedule II controlled substances. Currently, the database can only be accessed by law enforcement officials, but a new proposal would open up the information to doctors and pharmacists. Most state drug-monitoring programs already give access to health providers, but patient privacy concerns have hampered doctors’ access to Pennsylvania’s database, according to the article.

Meanwhile, Florida – which implemented its prescription drug monitoring program in September – has seen a growing number of physicians using the database, even though they are not yet required by law to do so. In that state, legislation has been introduced to take it a step further by requiring prescribers to consult the database and review the patient’s history before writing prescriptions for certain drugs, according to this article.

Posted in Informational, Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OxyContin Activists: Mason and Michaela

Like many young adults, Mason and Michaela of Marin County, Calif. saw their lives spin out of control after getting hooked on OxyContin in their teens. Today, Mason (now 24) and Michaela (now 23) are finally free from Oxy’s grip and are speaking out about the devastating effects of the prescription painkiller at high schools and youth leadership camps. Oxy Watchdog asked the pair – who met in recovery and have been dating since Aug. 2010 – to share more about how they got to where they are today, and their efforts to help prevent others from going down a similar path.

Watchdog: Tell us about how you grew up, and how your addiction progressed.

Mason: I played sports growing up, and I aspired to be a professional baseball player. I was picked to play on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but after two games I got caught smoking weed and was kicked off the team. After that I began failing out of my classes and became lost. Eventually I was sent to a continuation high school, which was like a training ground for drug addicts. I met a girl who had a prescription for Darvocet and Percocet to treat her rheumatoid arthritis, and she was always taking these pills, so I started taking them too. After a few weeks I tried OxyContin, and after a month I couldn’t afford the Oxys anymore, so I started doing heroin. Soon I was shooting up to 4 or 5 grams of heroin a day and also doing cocaine and pills, as well as methadone.

Posted in Informational, Rx Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Informational, Rx Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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).

Posted in Editorial, Pain Advocates, Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pill dealer pleads guilty to murder in OD case

Jeff George, the 30-year-old prescription drug kingpin arrested last week in Florida, has pleaded guilty to felony second-degree murder in the overdose death of Joey Bartolucci, a 24-year-old addict who died in February 2009 after taking hydromorphone and other drugs. Jeff and his brother Chris have been accused of running the largest illegal pain clinic network in the country, raking in $40 million in two years. Each of their four clinics pulled in up to $50,000 a day, and the brothers sold 20 million pain pills by the time the clinics were shut down, prosecutors have alleged. Fifty-six overdose deaths have been traced to the George clinics.

Sentiment surrounding the George case is split between those who think justice is being served to a drug dealer who showed a callous disregard for human life, and those who say he shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of a drug addict (read more here).

Posted in Crime, Personal Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pill-related deaths top skin cancer, HIV fatalities

We already knew that opiate painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin and hydrocodone are responsible for killing more Americans than cocaine or heroin, and that prescription drug abuse kills more people under the age of 34 every year than car crashes. Now, research shows that prescription opiates also kill more people than skin cancer, alcoholic liver disease and HIV, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. The number of deaths associated with opioid analgesics tripled between 1999 and 2007, increasing from 4,041 to 14,459, the authors of the study found.

It’s interesting to note how long it takes a trend to be defined as an epidemic. But with these kinds of statistics, it’s pretty hard to ignore the toll prescription drugs are taking on our society.

Posted in Informational, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charges rendered in pill overdose cases

When someone overdoses on prescription drugs, it’s often difficult to pursue criminal charges against the individuals involved. But in two recent cases, that’s exactly what happened. In Fernandina Beach, Fla., “mobile drug dealer” Rodney Young Odum has been charged with manslaughter for selling 21-year-old Aaron Douglas the methadone pills that took his life. (The cause of death was multiple drug toxicity, according to the Fernandina Beach Police Department.) And in West Palm Beach, prosecutors have charged Jeff George of felony second-degree murder and a doctor of first-degree murder in the overdose death of Joey Bartolucci, a 24-year-old addict who died in February 2009 after taking hydromorphone and other drugs. Jeff and his brother Chris, both 30, have been accused of running the largest illegal pain clinic network in the country, raking in $40 million in two years.

Posted in Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google to pay $500M for online pharmacy ads

Obtaining prescription drugs from rogue pharmacies online just got a little bit harder, with Google Inc. agreeing to forfeit $500 million for allowing online Canadian pharmacies to place ads targeting U.S. consumers in search of medicines like OxyContin, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The forfeiture is one of the largest ever in the U.S., the DOJ said. Google, for its part, has acknowledged that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers and said it has banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies. “It’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place,” the company said in a statement.

Better late than never.

Posted in Crime, Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suboxone use in Vermont at a crossroads

The use of suboxone to treat opiate addiction is controversial, to say the least. In Vermont – which ranks second in the country, behind only Maine, in per-capita admissions for treatment for addiction to prescription opiates – prison officials are seeing a huge spike in smuggled suboxone, according to this article. Suboxone is now being diverted by the very addicts it was formulated to help; the drug is being prescribed in record amounts around the state, and yet the state’s prescription opiate abuse problem shows no signs of slowing, the article says. (The number of Vermonters seeking treatment for opiate addiction in 2010 was up 21 percent from 2008 and up 300 percent from 2005, according to this related article.)

Posted in Informational, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment