Entries in Heroin (4)


Abuse-Proof Prescription Painkillers May Spur Heroin Habit

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The move by drug companies to make abuse-proof prescription painkillers may be inadvertently promoting heroin use, a new study found.

The study of more than 2,500 people with opioid dependence found a 17 percent drop in OxyContin abuse with the 2010 arrival of a formula that's harder to inhale or inject. During the same time period, heroin abuse doubled.

"I think the message we have to take away from this is that there are both anticipated consequences and unanticipated consequences to these new formulas," said Theodore Cicero, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Substance abuse is like a balloon: If you press in one spot, it bulges in another."

Unlike its predecessor, the abuse-deterring version of OxyContin turns to gel when crushed, making it harder for people to snort or inject for a rapid high. But nearly a quarter of study participants found a way around the formulation tweak, and 66 percent said they switched to another opioid – usually heroin.

"Most people that I know don't use OxyContin to get high anymore," one participant said, according to the study. "They have moved on to heroin [because] it is easier to use, much cheaper and easily available."

A small bag of heroin – enough for a high – can cost as little as $5, according to Cicero. An 80-milligram dose of OxyContin, on the other hand, can cost up to $80 on the street, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The rationale was if we reduced the supply, it would decrease the demand," Cicero said of national efforts to limit access to prescription painkillers and minimize the potential for abuse. "But what we're seeing is the demand is still there and it's driving the procurement of different drugs."

Different, and potentially more dangerous, that is. Whereas the dose of OxyContin is engraved in the pill, heroin powder is usually cut with other chemicals to bolster dealers' profits.

"When people switch over, they don't really know what they're getting," said Cicero. "They don't know the dose or the purity, so overdoses become quite common."

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma said in a statement, "It is unreasonable to expect the reformulation of one medication by one pharmaceutical company would reduce overall opioid abuse. Rather, these data suggest that reformulating all opioid medications over time to incorporate abuse-deterrent properties may help to reduce the overall abuse of this class of medications."

H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the shift to heroin use among people with opioid dependence reflects the challenge of obtaining prescription painkillers.

"Our belief is that those coordinated and comprehensive efforts to curtail the problem of prescription drug abuse are having an impact. Now we have to be concerned about the unintentional consequences," he said.

By ramping up public awareness and cracking down on illicit drug use, Clark hopes to see a downtick in prescription drug abuse without an uptick in heroin use.

"We should not attempt to solve one problem by creating another," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


200 Million People Use Illicit Drugs, Study Finds

Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- Roughly 200 million people worldwide use illicit drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine and opioids each year, according to a new study. The figure represents about one in 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64.

Using a review of published studies, Australian researchers estimated that as many as 203 million people use marijuana, 56 million people use amphetamines including meth, 21 million people use cocaine and 21 million people use opioids like heroin. The use of all four drug classes was highest in developed countries.

“Intelligent policy responses to drug problems need better data for the prevalence of different types of illicit drug use and the harms that their use causes globally,” reads the report, published Friday in The Lancet. “This need is especially urgent in high-income countries with substantial rates of illicit drug use and in low-income and middle-income countries close to illicit drug production areas.”

The 200 million number does not include people who use ecstasy, hallucinogenic drugs, inhalants, benzodiazepines or anabolic steroids -- just one reason it’s likely a vast underestimate of illicit drug use, according to lead author Louisa Degenhardt of the Sydney-based National Drug and Alcohol Research Center.

“Drug use is often hidden, particularly when people fear the consequences of being discovered for using drugs, such as being imprisoned,” Degenhardt said in a press conference.

Up to 39 million people are considered “problematic” or dependent drug users and up to 21 million people inject drugs, according to the report.

“It’s likely that injectable drug users have increased,” said Degenhardt, adding that the practice, “is a major direct cause of HIV, hepatitis C and to some extent hepatitis B transmission globally.”  Cocaine, amphetamine and heroin can be injected either alone or in combination.

Illicit drugs can have dangerous health effects, including overdosing, accidental injury caused by intoxication, dependence and long-term organ damage. While they may not cause immediate death, they’re thought to shave 13 million years off the life spans of users worldwide, according to the report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


For Young People, Heroin Addiction Is Deadly Cycle

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For young people who fall prey to the drug, the journey to heroin addiction and back again can be a deadly cycle.

"They will do anything they can to get their drug. They become vicious as they progress into their addiction,” said Tom Dietzler, a counselor at Caron Treatment Centers.

According to Dietzler, heroin addiction in young adults is a powerful disease that can cause good kids from loving families to make horrible decisions.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the road to recovery is the process of restructuring an addict’s life so it is no longer centered on the drug. Heroin is characterized by the euphoric high it gives users, followed by an intense physical withdrawal. To avoid the pain of withdrawal, the heroin addict is constantly looking for their next dose.

Dietzler said that parents should not expect their children to be cured quickly once entering drug treatment programs.

"Many parents, when they bring their children here, it is almost like [they expect] a 31-day cure pill," Dietzler said. "Wave a magic wand, Mr. Dietzler, make my son or daughter better."

Dietzler’s advice to families who are dealing with addiction in a loved one is to get help as soon as possible.

"The family often is in just as much denial as the patient is...and if the family doesn't get well, the drug addict doesn't have any motivation to get well."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Revolutionary New Device Could Help Drug Addicts

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- People trying to kick addictions to heroin or painkillers often say that withdrawal symptoms make them feel like there’s something crawling under their skin.

Scientists now believe that a device implanted in the skin can help addicts finally break free of their habits.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles say they’ve come up with an implanted device that administers the medication buprenorphine, which helps end dependence on heroin and opioids that are found in many prescription painkillers.

In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers wrote, “Those who received  implants also had fewer clinician-rated and patient-rated withdrawal symptoms, had lower patient ratings of craving and experienced a greater change...[than] those who received placebo implants.”

Buprenorphine was previously tested to treat addiction by administering the drug under the tongue, but ultimately failed because patients were remiss in adhering to a regular dosing schedule.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio