By Alfa · Aug 6, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    'Hillbilly heroin' highly addictive. Coroners prepare warning

    Canada's chief coroners and medical examiners are preparing a national alert
    on the abuse of a popular painkiller they say is responsible for at least
    250 overdose deaths in Ontario since 1998 and dozens elsewhere in Canada.

    In the past five years 250 Ontario deaths were related "in part or solely"
    to oxycodone, an opiate found in the brands OxyContin and Percocet, said the
    province's chief coroner Dr. Barry McLellan. In an additional 50 deaths,
    oxycodone was found in the bloodstream but other drugs were also involved.

    Between 2000 and 2003 there were six deaths in Windsor and Essex County
    where oxycodone was a factor, McLellan said. "No part of Canada has been
    spared. It's really affecting the entire country," said McLellan.

    In Nova Scotia there have been at least 20 deaths, about eight in New
    Brunswick and six in Newfoundland, where OxyContin prescriptions increased
    400 per cent between 2000 and 2003.

    Canada's chief coroners and medical examiners have been tracking OxyContin
    overdoses for months. At a recent meeting they decided to prepare a national
    alert, likely this fall, similar to past warnings dealing with seatbelts,
    airbags and bicycle helmets.

    "We consider it a significant number and a significant problem," said
    McLellan. "The data we have shows the problem with the drug was getting
    worse up to 2003, there's no evidence it is getting better."

    For black-market drug abusers, painkillers containing oxycodone are cheaper
    and easier to obtain than heroin or cocaine, they're pharmaceutically pure
    and they're just as dangerously addictive. Oxycodone is a narcotic extracted
    from the opium poppies used to make heroin.

    Last week, a 32-year-old Comber woman was sentenced to 12 months of house
    arrest after pleading guilty to fraudulently obtaining close to 3,000
    oxycodone tablets from 15 doctors in less than a year.

    McLellan suspects the main culprit in the overdose deaths is OxyContin, a
    long-acting derivative introduced in Canada in 1997 by the Stamford,
    Conn.-based Purdue Pharma Inc. Its main purpose was pain relief for cancer
    and palliative-care patients.

    On the street, where legally prescribed pills have become popular for drug
    traffickers, it is known as "hillbilly heroin" or "ox
    y." In 1999, said
    McLellan, the number of oxycodone-related deaths in Ontario numbered in the
    20s. In 2003 there were 100 deaths, a five-fold increase.

    John Stewart, general manager of Purdue Pharma, said his company is "very
    aware and concerned about the abuse of the drug in Canada and the U.S. We
    are working closely with governments, doctors and pharmacists to find ways
    to deal with the problem."

    Working with officials in the Atlantic provinces, where abuse has been
    particularly severe, Stewart said Purdue is offering information and tools
    to help assess, treat, document and follow patients on opiates.

    "The answer to abuse of prescription medications is greater education and
    substance abuse treatment.

    "The answer to diversion (illegal use of a legal drug) is tough law
    enforcement, not restrictions on patients and physicians who treat them,"
    said Stewart.

    He said there were 641,000 prescriptions issued for OxyContin in Canada in
    2003, a five-fold increase from 2000. He said Tylenol 3 remains the most
    prescribed drug in Canada at more than 4.5 million prescriptions last year.

    McLellan said he has been monitoring OxyContin abuse with his Canadian and
    U.S. colleagues.

    "They have a serious problem, especially in the northeastern states with the
    long-acting drug (OxyContin) and we have similar concerns," McLellan said. "

    "We are trying to get a handle on the problem and once we have more
    information, and clearly understand the scope of the problem, we want to
    make the public aware of the problems with OxyContin."

    McLellan said they will issue a public safety message in the fall, mainly
    through the country's media, by sending out news releases and possibly
    holding full-scale news conferences.

    "We've done this before on a wide variety of issues, including bicycle
    helmets, air bags, and seatbelts," said McLellan.

    Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)

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  1. dotzwaldt
    i wonder how many of these deaths are actually caused by liver failure due to taking to many pills in one session... especially with hydro, i never had it in its mixed form but dosages like 5/500 hydrocodone/apap or even higher i 've seen online
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