'LOLLIPOP DRUG' HIGHLY ADDICTIVE
A teenager sits on the couch of his home, watching television and sucking
on a lollipop.
The 15-year-old's mother walks by and notices nothing unusual.
Unbeknownst to her, the child is using drugs.
"It looks just like a lollipop," said Alexandria police Sgt. Newmon Bobb,
supervisor of the Narcotics Division. "Parents wouldn't notice."
Cancer patients use the drug Actiq to help with "breakthrough cancer pain,"
Bobb said. On the street, it is known as the "lollipop drug" or perc-a-pop,
and is as addictive as other prescription medicines.
The berry-flavored medicine is on a stick and resembles a lollipop. It has
its legal uses, but like other prescription medicines, it is being
diverted, Bobb said.
While not yet popular in Alexandria, the drug is something Bobb wants to
warn parents about before it becomes the next big thing for drug users,
especially children. Metro narcotics agents already have had one case where
a suspect was in possession of the lollipop drug.
Agents know the medicine is on the street, but have not seen it in large
Bobb said the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration has
reported an increase in misuse of the drug's ingredient fentanyl.
In 2000, there were 576 reports of nonmedical use for the medicine, but the
total increased to nearly 1,500 in 2002.
Actiq began as a concept to provide a pain reliever for children, said Dr.
Stephen Katz, an Alexandria pain-management specialist. The ingredient
fentanyl is a synthetic form of morphine, but it is four to 10 times more
powerful, he said.
Actiq usually is used for patients who already are taking other narcotics.
Misuse of the medicine is "very hazardous," Bobb said. "It could result in
injury or death." Katz agreed, saying the medicine is "very addictive." Its
misuse can result in respiratory depression and makes swallowing difficult.
Mixing it with other depressives, like alcohol, is even more dangerous, he
said, adding that the medicine can cause dizziness, sleepiness and nausea.
Because of its hazards, www.actiq.com states that kits are available that
include a child restraint safety lock, warning stickers and magnets for the
home and child-resistant storage containers.
Bobb fears it is just a matter of time before the lollipop drug starts
popping up in central Louisiana. Each stick costs $6 to $9 from a pharmacy,
but sells for $20 to $30 on the street, Bobb said.
The drug's impact lasts about an hour.
Katz prescribes Actiq and said it works well for his cancer patients.
However, he, too, fears its use is being diverted.
Bobb is especially concerned about the medicine's appeal to children and
teenagers. Bobb estimates the target group of illegal sales of the medicine
is 15 and older but younger children could misuse it.
Teenagers responded one of two ways when asked about the medicine: "What?"
or "I have never heard of it." Bradley Gunter, a 2004 graduate of Oak Hill
High School, has never heard of the lollipop drug, but the thought of it
being on the street scares him. It is something new for the college-bound
student to worry about. For illegal drug users, Actiq is easy to use, there
is no needle or swallowing, and it can be easily concealed, authorities said.
Manufacturers have designed ways to make the medicine less appealing to
children. They are white on a plain white stick with "RX" on it. They also
come packaged in foil covering not easily opened by children.
In addition, Capt. James Rauls of Metro Narcotics said it is harder to
divert than other medicines. The prescription for Actiq is tailored to
cancer patients and not used for other treatments.