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Reformulated Drug Sends Users Elsewhere

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Posted on Jul 14, 2012
julio.garciah (CC BY 2.0)

A harder-to-abuse version of OxyContin released two years ago has pushed users to other drugs that mimic the effects of opiates, including heroin.

The new version of the drug, which is more difficult to crush, chew and dissolve, has reduced the incidence of OxyContin abuse. But researchers at Washington University in St. Louis say it has “generated an unanticipated outcome” in pushing users toward other drugs, some of them more dangerous, suggesting the problem of addiction cannot be solved simply by making certain drugs unavailable.

“Abuse-deterrent formulations may not be the ‘magic bullets’ that many hoped they would be in solving the growing problem of opioid abuse,” the researchers wrote in the July 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

MedPage Today:

The researchers found the percentage of patients using OxyContin as their drug of choice fell from 35.6% before the new formulation was introduced to 12.8% almost 2 years later (P


But primary abuse of other powerful opioids such as fentanyl, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and heroin rose markedly during that time, from 20.1% to 32.3% (P=0.005), they found.

Indeed, clinicians and law enforcement officials now consider oxymorphone abuse a bigger problem than OxyContin abuse.

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