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Technology May Fuel Heroin Abuse

Over the past few years, many local officials and state governments have demanded stricter laws regarding prescription painkillers. Our country has seen a dramatic increase in painkiller abuse since the mid-2000's. People of all walks of life are abusing these medications, and the use is only increasing. When the cost of painkillers becomes too expensive, many addicts turn to heroin for a cheaper high. 

The United States is facing an epidemic of prescription painkiller addiction that for the most part has been kept pretty quiet. Pill mills in Florida were hot spots for pill peddling, and thousands of people a day would travel to the state to buy painkillers with cash “legally.” The practices of these pill mills have since been shut down and they no longer operate with a legal license to practice. The sad news is the damage has already been done.  Prescription painkillers have made their way to every town across the United States and have taken many lives and changed families forever.

Pharmaceutical companies are seeing the damage that their medication has caused and are changing their formulas to help curb the abuse. Purdue Pharmaceutical stopped making the easily crushable Oxycontin 80mg “OC” pill. (which were one of the most popular pills for addicts). They were strong, and easily crushed to be snorted, injected, or smoked. When the pills were taken off the market, Purdue released a new uncrushable version of the “OP” pill, making it harder for addicts to abuse. When the pill was crushed, it turns into a gel-like substance making the addict unable to snort or shoot intravenously. Some abusers were still able to forgo the extended release by chewing the pills, but were no longer able to inject or snort them.  Even though Oxycontin were harder to abuse, the new version did not stop the growing epidemic that we are facing today.

This makes me ask the question, “Are big pharmaceutical technologies driving addicts to use heroin?” Purdue knew how strong their pills were, and knew people were abusing them. Big pharma companies knew that their medications were being prescribed too often and did little about it. The warnings did not grow and they were not pro-active in educating doctors on who should actually be prescribed these drugs in the first place.

Purdue Pharma has recently released a statement that they have a blueprint for a new “smart pill.” An opiate based pill that has tiny beads that when crushed will destroy the pills narcotic effects. It's basically a pill that will be harder to tamper with to get high off of.  They also made a comment that they are not sure what the main ingredient of the medication will be yet. It looks as though they are shying away from using Oxycodone and may go for the less powerful Morphine. This “smart pill” will not be ready for manufacture or distribution for at least 3 years.

This breakthrough technology of beads in pills that destroy narcotic effect when crushed may change the way prescription painkillers are abused. It may be a step in the right direction for the future. I just worry about the millions of people out there that who are still abusing and reaching for heroin. No one person group or company is at fault for this epidemic, but more work needs to be done to help educate and rehabilitate those abusing opiates.


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