Opana: The New Oxycontin

It seems that the days of Oxycontin are just about over. USA Today recently reports that the rise of Opana (another opioid painkiller) has overtaken Oxycontin in certain states as the most abused prescription painkiller.

While the complete prevalance of Opana has yet to be explored, statistics show a significant increase in overdoses from and prescriptions for Opana. For example, IMS Health reports that prescriptions for the drug increased from 268,000 in 2007 to over 1 million, just three years later, in 2010.

And the numbers grew even higher in 2011 with multiple states reporting a significant increase for Opana prescriptions. (Nassau County in New York saw a 45% increase in just 6 months.)

What is Opana ER? Stronger Than Oxycontin

Opana is the trade name for oxymorphone, which is a powerful opioid analgesic. Oxymorphone is twice as strong as oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin), and approximately 6-8 times more potent than morphine. Yes, it’s a Schedule II controlled substance for a reason.

Users can currently choose from two different types of Opana: the immediate release version (simply called Opana), and the newer formula, the extended release version (Opana ER). Opana ER is often prescribed for patients who need a consistent amount of the drug delivered to their systems within 24 hours, but the extended release version can deliver a potent high when it is crushed and then injected or snorted.

Opana Side Effects

Because it is derived from the opiate family, Opana is particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol. The combination of those two drugs can increase plasma levels, creating a potentially life-threatening scenario. Opiates have also been known to negatively affect the respiratory system, creating a condition (respiratory depression) where breathing drops below the normal rate.

Opana is also known to impair your thinking and reasoning.

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following seizure symptoms:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Seizures

Overdoses to Opana can trigger apnea, cardiac arrest, or death.

The Generic Version: Oxymorphone Expected September 2012

When the newer (more tamper-resistant) version of Opana ER was released in December 2011,  a generic form of Opana, called Oxymorphone ER was approved (7.5 mg and 15 mg) and will be available September 2012. Generics for the newer formula strengths will probably not be available until 2023 when first patent expires.

How to Get Opana

Right now, Opana is a prescription painkiller and should be taken only under medical supervision. Even under those circumstances, the drug could trigger a respiratory depression or create a potentially fatally overdose if taken with alcohol.

History Repeats Itself: Tamper-Resistant Pills Send Addicts Elsewhere

Opana’s popularity started after Purdue Pharma released the crush-resistant Oxycontin (called Oxycontin OP) in 2010. Addicts who could not easily maintain an addiction to Oxycontin turned to Opana, but pharmacists have been working to fight back, releasing the newer tamper-resistant Opana just last month. However, there is still a significant amount of the old Opana on the market--which will take a quite a while for it all to disappear.

Of course the reformulated version of the pills have deterred drug abusers—both research and drug addicts prove that Oxycontin OP have frustrated addicts.  Still, this might just have simply pushed the problem elsewhere.

As one person responded to the article from USA Today,

“What they did expect—that people would just stop getting high on opiates? At least they seem to be acknowledging how utterly futile prohibition is. You could make it absolutely impossible to abuse painkillers in any manner tomorrow, and you’d just have a massive pile of heroin addicts on your hands. You can’t reformulate heroin [sic].” –bluelight.ru

This then leads to the question: What next? With addiction being what it is, addicts aren’t likely to stop abusing painkillers any time soon. They will always find a way to obtain that high--even after the old Opana has run out and the scientists have made every painkiller in the world tamper-resistant.

"Addicts in White Lab Coats"

Addicts may not all have Ph.D.’s, but they are known for their creativity in pursuing a high -- and they've found multiple ways to get around the tamper-resistant pills.  Dr. Mark Publicker, an addiction medicine specialist at Mercy Recovering Center in Main calls them scientists in their own way. “I like to think of them as drug addict scientists in white lab coats.” he told New York Times.

Channeling that Pill-Crushing Creativity Into Good

But it is that creativity and passion that makes our job at Duffy's so inspiring. Addicts are not any different than non-addicts--they are human beings with creativity and skill--they are beautiful people who have been doused in a world of hurt. And that's what makes working at Duffy's worth it--getting to see those very human, very creative abilities applied to something else.

Opana misuse and abuse doesn't have to ruin your life. You can find true freedom and use your creativity for fulfilling and noble purposes.

Guest Blog Author

This post is part of our guest-blog post series. We welcome all stories of recovery and addiction.