When Purdue Pharma changed the formula of OxyContin in 2010, it may have been successful in making the drug less attractive to users. However, what it did not probably expected is that the reformulation of the drug will drive OxyContin users to turn their attention to heroin and other stronger opioids.
According to a new research that surveyed more than 2,500 patients from 150 treatment centers across the United States, a significant percentage of OxyContin users are instead shifting to harder drugs, including heroin. The survey result shows that the number of people abusing OxyContin has dropped from 35.6% (before the new formula) to 12.8% (after the reformulation).
“The use of OxyContin has dropped precipitously, but none of us anticipated that people who were addicted to oxycodone would leave it and select another drug to take its place,” said principal investigator Dr. Theodore Cicero, who is also a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
Cicero further explains that heroin is ”easily available and cheap,” thereby, making it a logical choice for OxyContin users.
However, what needs to be addressed according to Cicero is the alarming increase in heroin use and other opioid abuse. He notes that “People are going from an essentially safe medication with known, specified doses to a powder that their dealer is telling them is heroin.”
Although there is no exact figures yet as to how many people are switching from OxyContin to heroine, Cicero said that the preliminary study should prompt government units to develop programs and additional research aimed at preventing substance abuse in general.