The rise in popularity of the painkiller Opana illustrates the challenges facing law enforcement authorities, addiction specialists and pharmaceutical companies trying to tackle prescription drug abuse, USA Today reports. Opana misuse became more common after the company that makes OxyContin reformulated the drug to make it more difficult to abuse.
“It’s almost like a game of Whac-A-Mole. You get a handle on OxyContin; they switch to Opana,” Jeffrey Reynolds, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola, New York, told the newspaper. “My guess is it will be something new tomorrow.”
The company that makes Opana, Endo Pharmaceuticals, has introduced a new formulation that is more difficult to abuse. The new pill, which is crush-resistant, received approval from the Food and Drug Administration late last year. Addiction experts and police say they now expect to see Opana users switching to heroin.
“They will adapt the same way drug traffickers or criminals will adapt to a new law. They are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction,” said DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs of the Office of Diversion Control. “When they either can’t get those particular pharmaceuticals or can’t afford them, they now gravitate to heroin.”
Opana abuse has been seen in areas including Nassau County, New York; Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia; and Ohio, including Akron, Cincinnati and Athens.