In 1995 the American Food and Drug Administration, FDA, approved the first long acting opiate narcotic painkiller- oxycontin. Made of oxycodone, oxycontin is like taking pure morphine. All opiate narcotic painkillers are made with variations of morphine, which is what the body naturally produces when it ingests heroin. Opioid drugs interact with the brain’s opioid receptors, which work to inhibit the effect of pain at the onset of an injury. The theory was this: long lasting, slow working opiate painkillers create less addiction.
Engaging in a multi million dollar sales and advertising campaign, the makers of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, advertised that exact sentiment. Oxycontin required only two pills a day for all day relief from pain. However, after the introduction of Oxycontin to the market, there was an surge in opiate addictions. Especially abused were narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin. Put into the hands of addicts and drug abusers, oxycontin could be manipulated out of it’s long term make up. Yet, regular users who abided by prescription instructions were getting addicted to the drug as well. Since then, opiate addiction has been on the rise. Oxycontin and its industry counterparts like Hydrocodone, and Percocet have taken the lives of millions- an estimated 78 per day in the United States. Canada is the second largest consumer of opiate painkillers next to the US. In 2012, Toronto alone saw 200 deaths due to opiate overdose.
The LA Times recently published an expose on Purdue Pharma, revealing that the company’s own research and internal dialogue confirmed that Oxycontin does not last. Chronic pain patients and other regular patients of the drug had long been complaining that the medications wear off long before its highly touted twelve hour mark. Internal dialogues showed regional salespeople convincing doctors to prescribe higher dosages of the drug. Instead of addressing a failing medication, the sales of Oxycontin allowed Purdue to cover up it’s fallacy.
Facing a global epidemic of opioid overdoses, governments around the world are taking action. Seeking to regulate the prescription of narcotic painkillers as well as fund treatment and prevention measures are of the highest importance. Unfortunately, the millions of people for whom Oxycontin works, face restrictions on how available the drug will be to them.