The nation’s fastest growing drug problem, according to the White House Office on National Drug Policy, is prescription drug abuse. Overdoses on opioid-based pain relievers and emergency room visits are up over 1.3 million people a year. The Center for Disease Control goes so far as to call it an epidemic.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines prescription drug abuse as using any medication in a way differently than how it was prescribed by a doctor. Opana is one example of a prescription drug similar to morphine that is highly abused. Opana is a Schedule II controlled substance and highly addictive. Opioids work in the central and peripheral nervous system by binding to opioid receptors in the brain to block feelings of pain, slow breathing, and create a feeling of calm.
Opana, or oxymorphone, is a prescription narcotic painkiller that was formulated by Endo Pharmaceuticals in response to the growing demand for opioid painkillers and in part due to patients’ tolerance to those drugs that were already on the market. It is intended for moderate to severe chronic pain relief. It is an analgesic drug that is prescribed in five and 10 mg tablets for around-the-clock relief and extended absorption.
Opioid drugs like Opana are chemicals that mimic naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain. In addition to blocking pain receptors, these opioids also activate floods of dopamine which is the natural neurotransmitter that gives us feelings of pleasure. By replacing naturally occurring brain chemistry with manmade ones, the brain slows downs natural production. It can take more and more of the drug over time to create the same effect or good feeling. This process, if not closely monitored by a doctor, can easily lead to addiction.
Abuse of the Drug
Many times opioid abuse starts out innocently enough. Patients with chronic lower back pain turn to drugs like Opana for relief. These drugs are merely stopgaps, however, which don’t cure the problem but rather only mask it. Many victims of accidents who genuinely require narcotics to recover find out months later, after their injury is gone, that they can no longer function without the drug. They then seek alternative ways to obtain it long after their prescription has run out.
Due to the intense high Opana and its counterparts boast, use for recreational purposes is very prevalent. The CDC states that over 12 million Americans use prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. OxyContin, a brand name for the drug oxycodone, is practically a household name due to its rampant abuse and media hype. A Monitoring the Future study in 2011 indicated that one in 20 high school seniors had abused the drug.
OxyContin was made as a 12-hour extended release drug to combat chronic pain. Crushing the pill to snort or inject it counteracted the time-release function, making it very attractive to recreational drug abusers as well as very dangerous.
Opana abuse has risen in popularity with the reformulation of OxyContin, which made OxyContin more difficult to abuse. In 2010, OxyContin was made into a new form that is considered tamperproof, as it turns to a gummy mush with any attempt to crush it. Opana quickly filled the void with tablets that are easily crushed and snorted or injected, although it is being replaced with a new format, making it harder to abuse. The old tablets can still be tracked down, however, and now generic versions of Opana’s original formula are in the works. Street names for Opana include
- Mrs. O
- New blues
- Blue heaven
- Stop signs
- The “O” bomb
Part of the allure of using a prescription painkiller is its accessibility. Teenagers find it in parents’ medicine cabinets and still others shop at “pill mills” for a fix. Pill mills are places where unscrupulous doctors dispense narcotics and other prescription drugs without viable medical reasons. They are often billed as “pain management centers.”
Depending on the market, Opana sells for anywhere from $45 to $185 a pill on the street, making it highly attractive for people with legitimate prescriptions to turn around and sell the drug to others. Low and fixed income patients may see it as a way to make some quick cash.
Risks of Abusing Opana
The Centers for Disease Control reports that a staggering 100 people in the United States die every day from drug overdoses. Three out of four prescription drug overdoses are from prescription painkillers like Opana. Opana is more potent than its predecessor oxycodone per milligram, thus making it easier to overdose accidentally when users are unaware of its potency.
Opana and other opioids slow reparatory function and, if taken in high enough quantities, can lead to a person not being able to breathe. Signs of overdose include:
- Cold or clammy skin
- Faintness or passing out
- Pinpoint pupils
- Shallow breathing
- Slowed pulse
If you recognize any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Even if the person appears to be awake, an overdose can still have lasting effects on the body and brain. Brain damage can occur from the lack of oxygen. In fact, coma and death are common if an overdose is untreated. According to USA Today, 23 percent of drug overdoses in Kentucky in 2011 were from oxymorphone, the key ingredient in Opana.
Aside from overdose, addiction is one of the biggest problems for Opana abusers. As users become tolerant to lower doses, they increase the dosage and attempts to stop using create intense withdrawal symptoms that can mimic the flu with signs like shaking, vomiting, insomnia, rapid heart rate, muscle weakness or soreness, and irritability. If you recognize any of the symptoms of overdose or withdrawal, seek immediate help. Other risks and side effects of abusing Opana are:
- Shallow breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Blurry vision
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
- Motor Impairment
- Respiratory Depression
Mixing Opana with alcohol and other drugs can have devastating side effects as well. Alcohol and Opana together can raise blood plasma levels, which can result in death. Abuse of a drug like Opana can be very serious and should be treated immediately, as it can lead to addiction, withdrawal and even death.
Symptoms of Opana Abuse
Even if someone has a valid prescription for Opana, there are warning signs to be aware of. Attempting to obtain refills when they are no longer necessary or even faking an injury in order to obtain pills are signs of addiction. Crushing or modifying Opana in any way is a symptom of addiction.
Addicts can have personality shifts, have mood swings, lose weight, and alter their lives in such a way that the drug is now at the center of it. They will often spend more and more time finding ways to obtain the drug, using the drug, and recovering from its effects. People experiencing headaches, muscle aches and chills when not taking Opana have likely formed an addiction and are experiencing withdrawal.
While it is relatively simple to get addicted to Opana, the reverse is not true. Recovery can be a long and daunting road that should not be travelled alone. Detox needs to occur in a safe place with medical professionals standing by to help. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and can make a person seriously ill without proper treatment.
Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the addiction. Just as no two people are exactly the same, neither are two cases of addiction. Here at The Oaks at La Paloma, our highly trained staff members can determine the type of treatment plan that is best for each individual. Addiction to pain medication is nothing to be ashamed of; seeking help is a brave step toward a better tomorrow.
It is important to not just treat the physical addiction, but also the emotional aspect of addiction.
Individual, group and family therapies are helpful as is an overall lifestyle change. Talking to others who are also struggling can help individuals to understand that they are not alone. Family support and sustained support from friends is vital also.
The Oaks at La Paloma strives to treat the whole person, both emotionally and physically, helping to combat cases of relapse and create a better future. We are standing by to answer questions and to help formulate an individual plan to break the vicious cycle of addiction. Call today and our admissions coordinators can help you find the best treatment for your situation.