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OxyContin in Missouri

NCJ Number
Gardenia Harris; John Q. Hodges; Carol A. Snively
Date Published
January 2002
29 pages
This policy brief describes what is currently known about OxyContin, a critical prescription medication for many who have chronic pain; presents national and Missouri data on OxyContin abuse; and suggests strategies for effective prevention and treatment of OxyContin abuse in Missouri.
When crushed and then swallowed or snorted, or mixed with water and injected, OxyContin provides a more intense high than the cheaper street drug heroin, which offers the user similar euphoric effects. When taken improperly, OxyContin is potentially lethal. For those who have an addiction problem, have limited access to more traditional drug trafficking markets, and who reside in low-income, blue-collar communities where work-related injury is common, OxyContin has become a popular drug; for some, it is their drug of choice. Although some individuals begin abusing OxyContin through a prescriptive use of the drug, abusers more often seek it with the primary intent of abusing it. Abusers of OxyContin who lose access to it or cannot afford its street costs often turn to heroin for their next fix. U.S. Justice Department statistics indicate that since its introduction in 1996, the number of OxyContin prescriptions dispensed has increased 20-fold to about six million in 2000. The amount dispensed between 1996 and 2000 constitutes an increase of over 1,800 percent in OxyContin prescriptions nationwide. According to the Justice Department's Diversion Control Program, 17 States had above-average consumption of OxyContin from January through September 2000. Missouri was one of these 17 States and the only Midwestern State west of the Mississippi with above-average consumption of OxyContin during this period. The 2000 annual data of the Drug Abuse Warning Network indicate that oxycodone in all forms was mentioned in 2 percent of all prescription medication-related emergency room visits in which abuse was suspected, ranking 15th on the list of 102 drugs most often mentioned by emergency departments. In addition to education of the public and those professionally affected by the consequences of OxyContin abuse, there is a need to develop patient monitoring programs and expand addiction treatment services, particularly opioid detoxification and treatment. Patients at greater risk of addiction should receive smaller quantities of pain medication and frequent reassessment of pain levels. In addition, an assessment and monitoring of possible addiction among those receiving pain-management services are essential. Given the prevalence of OxyContin abuse in isolated rural communities, more addiction programs with opioid detoxification and treatment components and easier access to services for residents are needed in such communities. These programs should provide residential and outpatient services that use behavioral therapy and short-term, pharmacological support during detoxification and stabilization. Prevention and treatment efforts can be best planned and implemented through a coordinated State response to the emerging problem of OxyContin abuse. 4 figures, 3 tables, and 29 references