Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

OxyContin Abusers Tend to Be Addicts First. (282 Deaths from Overdose in 7-Year Period)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

OxyContin Abusers Tend to Be Addicts First. (282 Deaths from Overdose in 7-Year Period)

Article excerpt

Patients who become addicted to oxycodone hydrochloride controlled-release (OxyContin, Purdue Pharma) generally are those who struggle with addiction, not those who have problems with pain, Wesley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, testified recently before a Senate committee.

"Most people who have pain and take OxyContin for the pain do not become addicts," Mr. Clark said at a recent hearing in Washington convened by the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "Many people who become dependent on opioids also have concomitant psychiatric problems that need to be addressed."

The hearing opened with statistics showing the magnitude of the addiction problem attributed to OxyContin, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1995 for use by cancer patients and others with moderate to severe pain requiring around-the-clock opioids. For instance, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who ran the hearing, noted that a report published last October by the Drug Enforcement Agency suggested that OxyContin played a role in the overdose deaths of 282 people over a 7-year period. And in rural Washington County, Maine, an estimated 1,000 of the county's 35,000 residents are addicted to OxyContin, committee member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said.

On the other hand, OxyContin has allowed many chronic pain patients "to have their lives back," said committee member Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), whose constituency includes OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, headquartered in Stamford, Conn. "Purdue is clearly willing to participate in an effort to curtail the diversion and the misuse of their product, and I urge them to continue to do so."

One issue raised during the hearing was whether Purdue Pharma contributed to the problem by marketing OxyContin too aggressively Dr. …

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