The high rate of addiction to opiates has been a consistent problem in the state of Florida. Several attempts have been made to quell the high volume of people addicted to prescription opiate medications including changing how the drugs are formulated, cracking down on pain clinics and enacting new laws and policies for doctors and patients.
For example, since May 2011, there have been 3,390 prescription drug related arrests in the state, resulting in the seizure of 785,295 pharmaceutical pills and the arrest of 61 doctors and closure of 254 pain clinics. Also, the popularly abused opiate Opana was reformulated in 2012 so that addicts could no longer snort or crush the drug to inject. After long term abuse of opiates, oral ingestion of the drug no longer suffices and addicts seeks a faster, more intense high and resort to snorting or injecting the drug. The pharmaceutical company that created Opana reformulated it with the hope to cut down on its abuse and set the precedent for other opiate manufacturers to do the same.
However, last week TN health officials reported that Opana is the culprit of a rare blood-clotting problem for people who inject the drug despite its reformulation. When any new policy is enacted to entice change there are unintended consequences – this is clearly one of them. The blood clotting disorder is called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which causes clots to form in small blood vessels, which occurs in only about 1 in 100,000 people. However, in the state of TN alone, 15 cases were reported from August to October of 2012. Of the cases reported, all but one was related to IV injection of Opana. Fortunately none of the patients died but unfortunately the intention of remaking Opana so addicts couldn’t shoot it fell short.
One error in the good-intention idea to reformulate Opana was that it didn’t account for the fact that once addicted, there are few tactics that can scare or deter an addict. Once the line of addiction has been crossed, particularly with opiate drugs, nothing short of inpatient addiction treatment and being completely removed from the drug works. Changing its composition may have persuaded a few to ingest Opana rather than shoot it, but changing its composition isn’t a viable long-term solution – ultimately because the addict still has access to the drug. A long-term solution for most is complete abstinence from the drug and seeking addiction treatment for opiate addiction.