Drug Abuse Oklahoma: Prescription Drug Abuse Skyrocketing in Oklahoma – Says State Narcotics Bureau

Hydrocodone, sold under brand names such as Lortab and Vicodin, and the stronger oxycodone, most popular as OxyContin and Percocet, are devastating the younger population of Oklahoma, says the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The opioid painkiller epidemic is leading to a critical overload for facilities offering hydrocodone and OxyContin detox.

According to the state drug bureau, hydrocodone is the number one prescribed controlled substance in the state, and oxycodone is number three, just behind diazepam, (usually known as Valium) in the number two spot.

To get an idea of how much hydrocodone and oxycodone is used in the state, the bureau’s spokesman Mark Woodward points out that the state’s prescription monitoring database shows 111 million doses of hydrocodone are prescribed every month in Oklahoma, enough for one dose every day for every person in the state.

Oklahoma consumes as much hydrocodone as the entire state of California, which has 10 times the population, and oxycodone, the active narcotic in OxyContin, is not far behind.

“That’s crazy,” Woodward told the Oklahoman. “We’ve seen huge increases in the last 10 years, just the amounts of them being filled.”

Dr. Charles Shaw, an addiction specialist, told the newspaper he considers the current use and abuse of prescription painkillers an epidemic. He says pharmaceutical companies market them aggressively, government drug agencies “have dropped the ball” in controlling their use, and physicians who prescribe them get almost no training in dealing with addiction.

“I kept seeing over and over and over people in their 20s addicted to OxyContin,” Dr. Shaw told the Oklahoman. “Once they took it, they could never get off of it.” OC, or oxy as it’s known on the street, is the only opiate that can be swallowed, snorted or injected, Dr. Shaw said. “It’s just like heroin in pill form. It is worse than heroin.”

Many victims of oxycodone and hydrocodone addiction don’t start with illicitly obtain drugs, they get addicted taking legitimate prescriptions for pain. OxyContin, a time-release version of oxycodone, is an effective painkiller, lasting up to 12 hours. But all narcotics open the door to physical dependence and addiction to any person who uses them, even as prescribed. And OxyContin is particularly addictive. In fact, the company that makes it, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, was fined $ 630 million last year for failing to disclose to physicians and the FDA just how incredibly addictive it really is.

OxyContin is especially popular with addicts, including former heroin addicts, because they can crush the tablets to defeat the time-release mechanism, and then snort or inject the crushed powder for a massive, heroin-like high. After a few of these experiences, almost no one can escape dependence or addiction.

When someone becomes dependent or addicted to opioid painkillers, they must be weaned off of them slowly to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms. But most addicts find the weaning-off process too difficult to get through. Reversion to drugs is common.

Most drug detox programs are ‘one-size-fits-all’, basically ignoring all but the most obvious personal needs of patients. In many cases, patients are just sent home and told to taper off, which is akin to telling a binge eater or an alcoholic to “just say no.” The ‘cold turkey’ approach is almost as impossible. Patients are simply put in a room and asked to “tough it out.” Neither method is successful, for all but a very, very few.

Successful alternative drug detox programs are available, however, called ‘medical drug detox’ programs. These provide 24/7 medical supervision and assistance, and are personally tailored to each patient’s unique metabolism and current health requirements.

Medical drug detox programs avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, are much faster and more thorough than the cookie-cutter variety, and are routinely successful for almost anyone addicted to prescription drugs like narcotic painkillers or benzodiazepines, or to alcohol. And medical drug detox programs are particularly successful for people suffering from OxyContin addiction, often taking only a week or less.

In a field almost devoid of a promise of recovery, medical drug detox offers new hope.

Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer who contributes articles on health.



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