OxyContin – Fueling an Epidemic

OxyContin has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most habit-forming and potentially dangerous prescription opioids on the market. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that from 1999 to 2018, there were over 232,000 prescription opioid-related overdose deaths throughout the country. (1) Overdose death rates rose over four times over the course of two short decades. This is, in large part, due to the rampant over-prescription of addictive medications – like OxyContin.

OxyContin Manufacturer Brought to Court

On October 24, NPR published an article explaining a major global settlement involving Purdue Pharma, a major OxyContin manufacturer, and the Justice Department. (2) The Department claimed that Purdue Pharma was engaging in aggressive marketing techniques, ultimately contributing to what has long-since been deemed a nationwide opioid epidemic.

No members of the family who owns Purdue Pharma nor any company officials will serve jail time, as the Wednesday hearing revealed. However, the detailed and highly controversial settlement is currently valued at $8.3 billion dollars. Additionally, the Justice Department confirmed that future criminal prosecutions are entirely possible, and that the Sackler family and their company employees are not entirely off the hook. Investigations into the nature of the alleged marketing campaigns are ongoing.

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, and the settlement would completely restructure the company. While they would be allowed opioid medications like OxyContin, it would be relinquished to the control of the government. The settlement is also geared towards providing additional recovery-related resources to men and women across the country who have been struggling with addiction as a result of this habit-forming medication – and others.

This is not the first time the Sackler family has found themselves in hot water. Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the family for allegedly pocketing billions of dollars in profit and depositing this money into numerous offshore bank accounts. At the hearing on Wednesday, James contributed, “While our country continues to recover from the pain and destruction left by the Sacklers’ greed, this family has attempted to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis. Today’s deal doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths or millions of addictions caused by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. [The settlement] allows billionaires to keep their billions without any accounting for how much they really made. From the beginning, we’ve aimed to unearth how much the Sacklers actually profited and how much they continue to hide away. While no amount of money can ever compensate the pain that so many now know, we will continue to litigate a case through the courts to secure every cent we can to limit future opioid addictions. We are committed to holding the Sacklers and others responsible for the role they played in fueling the opioid crisis.”

In 2007, Purdue Pharma and the Justice Department battled it out during a prior settlement. The Justice Department demanded that the pharmaceutical company pay $645 million in damages after engaging in reckless and dangerous marketing techniques. The details of this settlement remained hidden from the public, and as soon as the hearing concluded, Purdue Pharma was back to aggressively peddling their extremely dangerous and addictive medications. The company has continued to engage in these practices as the rates of opioid-related overdose death continue to skyrocket across the country.

Prescription Opioid Abuse and Overdose-Related Death

The American Journal of Psychiatry published an article titled, “Prescription OxyContin Abuse Among Patients Entering Addiction Treatment.” (3) The article suggests that mainstream media presents OxyContin addiction as an often unintentional happenstance – an individual is prescribed the medication for a legitimate pain-related disorder, and he or she ends up with a physical and psychological dependency somewhere down the line. The study focused on 27,816 participants who had been admitted to an addiction treatment program somewhere in the United States because of an OxyContin abuse disorder. Interestingly enough, 78 percent of men and women who had been admitted for OxyContin abuse reported no prior prescription, and 86 percent reported that they began taking the medication in order to “get high” or “feel a buzz” – not for any legitimate medical purpose.

However, it was also discovered in numerous subsequent studies that the majority of individuals who began abusing opioid narcotic medications initially received or stole them from a friend, family member or acquaintance. It is extremely important that anyone who was initially prescribed a habit-forming medication disposes safely of it as soon as they recognize that it will remain unused or that it is no longer wanted. To this effect – National Prescription Drug Take Back Day falls on October 24. More information on the event – including a list of safe disposal sites across the country – can be found on the Drug Enforcement Administration website. (4)

Not only is OxyContin abuse dangerous in and of itself, but there is ample evidence pointing towards the fact that it helped fuel the nationwide heroin epidemic. In 2010, OxyContin manufacturers – including Purdue Pharma – introduced a new formulation of the medication that was significantly more difficult to crush up into a powder, therefore more difficult to abuse. Major pharmaceutical companies introduced the reformulation as a safer alternative, assuring pharmacists and other medical professionals that the “innovation” would lead to a dramatic decrease in overdose-related deaths. On the contrary, the modification simply drove individuals away from OxyContin and towards heroin. In August 2010 the number of prescription opioid-related fatalities did decrease noticeably; however, it was simply replaced with a noticeable spike in heroin overdose fatalities. Not only does reducing the amount of OxyContin in circulation help prevent future cases of prescription drug addiction, it actually helps aid in reducing the national heroin crisis.

Begin Your Journey of Healing Today

The World Health Organization recently reported that despite the extensive resources available to men and women who are suffering at the hands of an OxyContin addiction, less than 10 percent of opioid-addicted individuals ever receive the help they need. (5) This is – in large part – due to the fact that they remain unaware of what resources are easily accessible to them. At Chapel Hill Detox we sincerely believe that quality detoxification services should be readily available to anyone who needs them. Our admissions process is simple and straightforward – simply give us a call and we will handle the rest. We understand how overwhelming and devastating OxyContin addiction can be. Not only is this specific chemical substance highly habit-forming, but the ease of access makes quitting without medical intervention entirely impossible.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with OxyContin are not generally life-threatening, but they are very physically and psychologically uncomfortable, and the associated drug cravings lead many individuals back to use before the detox process is complete. At Chapel Hill Detox we utilize a number of proven detox methodologies geared towards alleviating physical discomfort and drug cravings. Our luxury, state-of-the-art detox facility was carefully developed with client comfort and safety in mind. If you have been struggling with OxyContin addiction and have run out of options, we are available to help. Simply give us a call and we will get you admitted to our comprehensive program as quickly as possible.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing/overview.html
  2. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/21/926126877/purdue-pharma-reaches-8b-opioid-deal-with-justice-department-over-oxycontin-sale
  3. https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07050252
  4. https://takebackday.dea.gov/
  5. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/opioid-overdose
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