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OXYMORPHONE & OPANA ADDICTION

photo of a doctors prescription pad and stethoscope

Prescription painkillers like oxymorphone (also known by its brand name Opana) can be incredibly useful in helping individuals to manage pain when used correctly under a doctor’s supervision and guidance, but users always run the risk of developing oxymorphone addiction, particularly after long-term use. Oxymorphone and its semi-synthetic opioid cousins’ hydrocodone and hydromorphone were developed to reduce pain and restore function for individuals with debilitating pain after injuries and surgeries and as palliative care for those with terminal illnesses such as cancer. However, all opioids, including naturally-derived and completely synthetic ones, have been shown to be remarkably likely to be abused and result in addiction for their users.

How a Legitimate Prescription Can Lead to Oxymorphone Addiction

Many individuals who eventually develop an oxymorphone addiction begin their usage under a doctor’s care. However, individuals who find pain relief from opioids like oxymorphone can quickly descend into abusing them. This can happen in a variety of ways. First off, because opioid users develop a tolerance to their medications after a relatively short period of time, they may need to take increasingly larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same level of pain relief. This increase in dosage may begin under a doctor’s supervision but may morph into them seeking more of the drug on their own through a variety of illegal means. Secondly, individuals who initially take the drug for pain relief may also find that they enjoy the “high” it creates and begin taking it for purely recreational purposes.

The Phenomenon of “Doctor Shopping”

As individuals seek to acquire larger and larger quantities of the drug to fuel their incipient oxymorphone addiction, they will first turn to their prescribing physician in an attempt to get their dosage increased. This may work in the short term, but as physicians have become more aware of the dangers of opioid addiction (and have faced increased governmental scrutiny and oversight as the opioid epidemic becomes more widely recognized), they are less likely than in the past to keep increasing a patient’s dosage of the drug. When these attempts inevitably fail over time, many individuals will turn to the technique of “doctor shopping” where they will try to obtain multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors for the same real or imagined ailment.

Recently, federal controls have made this approach less successful, but it can still serve to provide addicts with a significant source of oxymorphone in the short term. This technique is illegal insofar as it involves misrepresentations and fraud on the part of the user to obtain the drug on false pretenses. It also opens the door to other attempts at further illegal procurement of oxymorphone in other ways as the addict descends down the slippery slope of criminality to fuel their oxymorphone addiction.

line chart showing the prevalence of doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions

Obtaining Pills from Friends and Family

After developing an oxymorphone addiction, many users will also attempt to acquire oxymorphone from friends and family. This may start as a request for a pill here and there paired with excuses like “I left my pills at home” or “I forgot to refill my prescription.” Eventually it can transform into outright stealing of prescriptions from medicine cabinets or bedside tables as their addiction progresses. In many cases, oxymorphone addiction can even result in forms of elder abuse where elderly family members’ or friends’ medically-necessary supplies of opioids are stolen by the addict, leaving the legitimate patient suffering in pain and unable to get replacement supplies of their drugs due to government restrictions and controls. The elderly have also found themselves victims of theft (of items to pawn to buy drugs) or physical abuse by drug addicted children who move back into their homes as their lives fall apart. This horrific and all too common outcome highlights the tremendously addictive power of drugs like oxymorphone. [2]

photo of two young men in an alley engaged in a illegal drug deal

Turning to Illicit Sources

Once oxymorphone addicts exhaust the potential of “doctor shopping” and have alienated their friends and family as sources to fuel their drug habit, the next step is often turning to “the street” as an illicit source of their oxymorphone. Due to the tremendously high cost of these drugs on the black market, they may end up turning to criminality to fund their addiction as well as switching to other less expensive opioids such as heroin or fentanyl. These street sources of drugs are also even more dangerous due to the fact that their manufacture is completely unregulated, causing many individuals with an oxymorphone addiction to ingest a variety of potentially toxic substances that they may not even know the composition of – potentially leading to overdose or even death.

The Role of Pharmaceutical Companies

The role of pharmaceutical companies like Endo Pharmaceuticals, the makers of the brand name Opana form of oxymorphone, has been hotly debated in the study of the opioid epidemic in the US. These companies often reformulate their drugs into “abuse resistant” versions after stories of their role in spurring drug addictions become publicized. However, these reformulations are not always as beneficial or altruistic as they may seem at first glance. In the case of Opana, Endo Pharmaceuticals responded to reports that their Opana ER (extended release) tablets were being crushed and snorted to give individuals a quicker and more intense high by creating a new version with a coating designed to make them less able to be crushed and snorted. However, this reformulation and their lobbying to have the old version declared illegal due to “reasons of safety and effectiveness” enabled them to eliminate generic competition and “reset the clock” on their drug becoming available for generic distribution. This act, made in the name of safety, actually netted them hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

Furthermore, after oxymorphone drug abusers discovered the new reformulation was resistant to being crushed and snorted, they began “cooking it” and injecting it instead. This, in turn, led to a massive spike in previously rare blood diseases and HIV transmission as addicts invariably shared their needles in the process. The end result of Endo Pharmaceuticals’ “safer” reformulation of Opana was a massive public health crisis, continuing oxymorphone addiction and abuse, and continuing monopolized profits for the drug’s manufacturer. And, this story is unfortunately similar to many of the pharmaceutical companies involved in producing other opioids that have fueled the US epidemic of opioid addictions and overdoses over the last decade. It all makes one wonder how much the corporate profit motive is responsible for the carnage that this epidemic has left in its wake. [3]

illustrated bar chart showing the increase of Opana drug abusers after reformulation

Get Help for Oxymorphone Addiction Now

If you or a loved one has developed an oxymorphone addiction, call BWR at 800-683-4457 to get the professional help you need. Our operators are available 24/7 and can help get you started on the road to recovery today, helping you regain control of your life from the deadly jaws of addiction.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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