The day after this newspaper is published, the long-time analgesic OxyContin will be replaced in drug store dispensaries by OxyNEO.
The product’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, has been prevailed upon by governments to create a new product that, while still effective for pain relief, has been reformulated to be less attractive as a street drug.
OxyContin, commonly known as “hillbilly heroin,” is an opiate that, on the street, is a relatively cheap “high” for people who have for one reason or another become addicted to it and are prepared to pay the $1 per milligram or so street value contraband supplies of the product command.
The problem for everyone is what happens when street supplies of the old product disappear?
The lack of a relatively easy access to an OxyContin “fix” will likely send many people to methadone clinics in an effort to rid themselves of their habits.
But there are many other products available on the street, several of them more expensive and with even nastier long-term effects.
The provincial and federal governments have been criticized by some public health officials for insisting that OxyContin be discontinued in favour of a product that does not lend itself to reconstitution for street use.
The concern is that, as OxyContin addicts’ withdrawal symptoms set in because they can no longer access this product and may not be able to afford an alternative street drug, some of them may feel no choice but to embrace antisocial behaviours (robbery) in order to steal goods they can either trade for drugs or sell in order to get cash to buy drugs.
The concern is that the new program is itself being introduced on a “cold turkey” basis, rather than being phased in over a few months.
There is little doubt that there will be fallout as the supply of OxyContin that somehow finds its illegal way to street vendors diminishes and then disappear altogether.
Hopefully, in the long term this will be in everyone’s best interests, those addicted to the product and the larger community together.
In the meantime, however, it will be prudent for ordinary people to perhaps be a little more careful about locking their doors and monitoring their businesses.
Not to be too alarmist, but a surprisingly high percentage of the population of Northern Ontario has managed to develop a dependency on OxyContin in a fairly short period of time.
Hopefully, the absence of their street drug of choice will spur on many addicts to begin the process of ending their dependencies and “clean up.” That’s what this program is meant to engender and it is vitally important that the provincial and federal health agencies move quickly to put in place additional facilities, education and programs which addicts can access for assistance in overcoming their dependencies.
This last is very important just now as, without money being spent on helping people who have become addicts to OxyContin and similar products deal with their issues, the problem will not go away. It will simply go elsewhere.