Va. Police Fear Rise Of New Drug 

Va. Police Fear Rise Of New Drug 
Posted by FoM on February 10, 2001 at 18:40:58 PT
By Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Abuse of a prescription painkiller that has claimed dozens of lives in rural Virginia and Appalachia has made its way to the Washington area, with law enforcement officials noticing a sharp rise in its use among addicts who formerly latched onto heroin, morphine and methadone.OxyContin, a potent opiate often used to ease the suffering of terminal cancer patients, has been linked to more than two dozen overdose deaths in the Roanoke area and scores of crimes in Kentucky and Tennessee over the past two years. 
Police in Northern Virginia said they have seen more than a dozen overdoses in the past year. "It appears to be descending on Virginia very quickly," said Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. "It certainly doesn't seem to be the epidemic here in Northern Virginia that it is in other places, but we are very worried about the growing problem."Called "oxys," "O.C." and "killers" on the street, OxyContin pills provide the "perfect package" for abusers who want a quick and intense high, and they have become coveted items that can fetch outlandish prices, authorities said.On the street, the drug can fetch 10 times its prescription price. Local police said the pills sell for about $25 apiece. Last year, $4.5 million of Virginia Medicaid money went toward OxyContin prescriptions.Authorities said most of the pills on the street flow from doctors' offices, with some dealers faking ailments to get prescriptions and some writing phony orders. Others steal from pharmacies.Over the past two weeks, Virginia State Police have been investigating the theft of more than $12,000 worth of OxyContin from a Fairfax pharmacy, a heist that police believe will fuel illegal sales in the region, Caldwell said.The local office of the Drug Enforcement Administration has made arrests for OxyContin sales in Northern Virginia but not in other jurisdictions, spokeswoman Laura DiCesare said, adding that the drug trend is still emerging and that the DEA is trying to catch up.Prince William County detectives said they have seen a tremendous rise in illegal sales of OxyContin and other prescription opiates, noting that some addicts will use heroin only when they can't get their hands on OxyContin. First Sgt. Jay Lanham, who supervises narcotics detectives, said prescription fraud in the county is way up, and he estimated that there have been 10 to 15 OxyContin overdose deaths in the past year."It's a fad, and it's getting worse," Lanham said. "If it still continues to be readily available, I'm sure we're going to see it continue."Last month, Prince William detectives busted a significant drug operation in Dale City, arresting four people who were allegedly selling prescription drugs out of a home. A 39-year-old mother of two, Cindy Jean Harris, was arrested after undercover detectives bought OxyContin and other opiates from her, police said.Sources close to the investigation said Harris was obtaining the pills from a pharmacy in the area, but police are unsure exactly how. Police have brought more than a dozen drug charges against her.Gregg Wood, a health fraud investigator with the U.S. attorney's office in Roanoke, said a rash of crime has erupted in southwestern Virginia as users steal to feed their addictions or obtain false prescriptions to sell. Wood said there has been an increase in thefts of the pills. "It seems to be the drug of the day, and it's easily obtainable," Wood said, adding that the trend has reached epidemic proportions in parts of rural Virginia.An overdose causes respiratory depression, a condition in which the body no longer receives the brain's signal to breathe.Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a White House drug chief under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, said the problem with OxyContin became inevitable as doctors have become accustomed to using opiates as painkillers. DuPont said opiates have always been popular among abusers and have driven the illegal drug market."You get a fad in a particular drug, the users recognize it, and they bid up the value like the dot-com stocks, causing a bubble," DuPont said. "We're at the beginning stages of this wave, and over the next decade, we're going to see more and more stories like this."Staff writer Brooke A. Masters contributed to this report. Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Josh White, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Saturday, February 10, 2001; Page B01Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: CannabisNews DEA Archives
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on February 11, 2001 at 13:59:09 PT
My 2 cents
Hi Dr. Russo, What concerns me when a legal prescription drug becomes a recreational drug they might tighten up the ability for a Doctor to prescribe that medicine. The drug war really hurts people who are in a terminal condition. They need pain relief and it's hard for them to get what they need to ease the pain. My son was never given an IV Morphine drip. They didn't use it in their hospice program. It was too much trouble.
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Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 11, 2001 at 04:52:33 PT:
My 2 cents:Oxycontin is a long acting (12 hour) form of oxycodone, a synthetic opiate. It is a relatively clean drug in terms of having the usual opiate side effects, but no particular toxicity otherwise.This is a very effective analgesic (painkiller), but it is highly addictive, particularly when crushed and snorted or injected. Its use should be restricted to chronic pain patients, where its use reduces problem inherent with short acting agents with more toxicity (e.g., Tylenol #3, or anything containing acetaminophen that is bad for the liver in chronic usage). As it is Schedule II, all the supplies come from physician prescription or diversion. In other words, unless someone steals it, or forges a prescription, it has to come from a doctors order. If a physician is discriminating in its presciption, few "fakes" should occur. However, people are resourceful. Two years ago, a nurse in an adjacent department stole a prescription pad, forged my name, and had a regular Oxycontin ring going in a small town near here.The news is all over this. I saw reports on the national broadcasts of CBS and NBC just this weekend. For better or worse, more addicts and thrill-seekers will get the idea from this publicity, and the problem will worsen.Already, some state legislatures (Alabama?) are seeking to ban the drug. That would be the typical mistake. The drug is a valuable one that can be misused. Chronic pain is a thorny clinical problem for which we need all the best tools, especially considering that cannabis is unavailable to most of us already due to legislative fiat. I would hate to see Oxycontin go because of the actions of a few. However, any doctors out there should be advised that methadone is equally good as a drug for chronic pain, is a tiny fraction of the cost of Oxycontin, is similarly free of other toxic effects, and is much less subject to diversion and illicit use.It will be interesting to see if the usual political reflexes are exercised and Oxycontin gets the legal coup de grace. It is much easier to blame the drug than deal with the underlying causes of addiction.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 10, 2001 at 21:32:18 PT
Thanks observer
Thanks observer for helping out with the mentioned thread. I really appreciate. I took Oxycontin when I had dental surgery and it sure wasn't something that I enjoyed taking. I felt much better when I stopped. You can get strung out on many scripts but the high isn't worth it. That's what I think. They're always taking the fun out but leave that addiction potential in so people will get more pills from their Doctor.
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Comment #1 posted by observer on February 10, 2001 at 20:55:23 PT
longrunning cannabisnews (oxycontin) thread...'Net Yields Drugs on Demand! wrote:``I have taken everything from aspirin to ibuprofen to morphine and oxycontin (a high powered heroin derivitive,huundreds of times more powerful than heroin). . .The only thing that has ever worked is smoked marijuana.'' 
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