STATS criticizes media coverage of Oxycontin (again). Has the media hyped the dangers of Oxycontin? Of course. They hype everything. I remember a recent Today Show segment on the hidden dangers of shopping carts.
The article argues that it’s not a major drug of addiction:
The significance of this study is that it provides a powerful, random sample of drug addicts in the U.S. and finds that just 5% reported ever using OxyContin.
Among this group of 1,425 addicts, only 22% reported receiving OxyContin by way of prescription for a medical problem. But 86% reported using OxyContin, whether prescribed or not, to get high. Only eight (0.5%) used OxyContin exclusively. What this means is that the overwhelming majority of those abusing OxyContin were abusing other drugs as well (specifically, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and sedatives).
I’ve never been concerned about accidental addiction for pain patients. Rather, I’ve been more concerned about illicit use of Oxycontin by young people who become opiate addicts and switch to heroin because Oxycontin is so expensive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a client who’s primary drug is Oxycontin, but I’ve seen scores whose opiate use began with Oxycontin experimentation. They probably would have become addicts anyway, but Oxycontin seems to have lowered the threshold for young people to start using opiates. The author does acknowledge that this study might not capture information about these trends.
Clearly we need to both look for ways to increase access to opiates when it’s medically appropriate for pain management and find ways to reduce diversion.