The Opiod Epidemic
When the opioid epidemic started reaching a noticeable climax in 2011, pharmaceutical companies started scrambling to create opioid painkillers which had a lesser risk of abuse. Opana was one of the drugs created in 2012 which had a different chemical design. Pills were being reported as being abused through snorting and smoking because they could be easily crushed.
Opana sought to make a less destructible prescription pill, which would reduce the amount of abuse using the drug. Unfortunately, as NPR reports, addicts and drug abusers found that there were ways to dissolve and inject the pill instead of crushing and snorting it.
Before the release of the newly designed drug, NPR explains, there wasn’t any report of it being injected. Once that became the only avenue of abuse, injection rates soared causing crisis in specific counties. Counties like Scott County saw an increase in injection abuse of Opana and an outbreak of HIV. The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, decided to investigate.
According to NPR, “FDA researchers concluded ‘the reformulation caused a marked shift in the route by which the drug is abused, from nasal to injection.” The FDA performed a survey of data collected about people entering treatment for opioid addiction. “Among people who reported abusing Opana,” the article explains, “the percentage of people who said they injected it roughly doubled after the reformulation, from 17 percent to 38 percent.”
A climbing outbreak of intravenous opioid abuse is concerning for many reasons. First, intravenous abuse of opioids has a high risk of fatal overdose. Second, as NPR points out, “abuse of Opana by injection is especially concerning, because it’s been associated with a rare blood disorder known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.” More common infections associated with intravenous drug use are also spreading, like Hepatitis C and HIV.
Risks of Opana
The risks of Opana were voted overwhelmingly as dangerous, outweighing the benefits of the drug. However, since the population of those who become addicted to opioids is still small, most government administrations local, state, and federal, are slow to create a large ban. Many pain patients in need of drugs like opioid painkillers use the drugs responsibly and receive the benefits such drugs are intended to provide.
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