Prescription drug abuse, according to authorities, is a rapidly-growing problem. While the message is being sent about cocaine, heroin and other drugs, the rates of addiction for prescription drugs are growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of emergency room visits linked to prescription drug abuse increased 115% between 2004 and 2010. In 2008, the number of fatalities caused by opioid painkillers eclipsed the number of fatalities caused by cocaine and heroin overdoses.
One of these popular — and potentially fatal — painkillers affecting lives is Opana, which is also known as oxymorphone.
What Is Opana?
Opana ER is the brand name of a strong prescription opioid painkiller. It is a derivative of opium. Opana is an extended-release medication. It is prescribed by doctors to help patients manage serious, long-term pain. It can also be abused and can become addictive.
Opana was introduced by its manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, in 2006. Opana is considered habit-forming drugs, even when taken as directed by a doctor.
When Opana is abused, it becomes extremely addicting. To prevent injection of the drug, Endo Pharmaceuticals developed a new crush-resistant formula of its pill in 2010. The new formula becomes gooey when water is added to it, making it impossible to inject. It is also very difficult to crush the pill, making it harder to snort. However, the FDA did not approve of the formula until late 2014, meaning that through 2015 there were still injectable and crushable forms of the drug available.
Although Opana is the brand name for oxymorphone, there are generic versions of it available on the market, as well. These usually do not have crush-resistant formulas or time-release coatings.
This painkiller is addictive because of the high it can produce. The drug acts on the central nervous system and affects brain chemistry. Since it changes brain chemistry, users become accustomed to the drug over time and may have to take more of the substance to get the same effect. Opana, taken in injectable form or snorted, produces feelings of euphoria, sociability, and confidence. It also reduces feelings of anxiety. Users take it to feel confident or better about themselves and can easily get addicted.
When Is Opana Used?
Opana is often prescribed by doctors to help patients who have had surgery or who are dealing with pain due to serious conditions, such as osteoarthritis, back injuries or cancer. It’s also prescribed to patients suffering some anxiety disorders. In some cases, it is used by doctors to extend the effects of anesthesia.
The drug should not be used recreationally. However, Opana abuse is escalating. Opana is used to produce feelings of euphoria, similar to what users experience with OxyContin or heroin. On the streets, Opana is sometimes called “new blues,” “the O bomb,” “stop signs” or other names.
Side Effects of Opana Abuse
Opana, like all powerful prescription drugs, comes with a number of unintended side effects. Some patients taking this drug as prescribed may experience:
- Upset stomach
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Itchiness or rash
- Sleep disturbances
- Dry mouth
- Slowed breathing or stoppages in breathing
- Loss of appetite
Patients who are allergic to it can experience serious allergic reactions, including:
- Loss of consciousness
- Swelling or bloating of the face or mouth area
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
- Yellow or green mucus, usually accompanied by a cough
- Severe vomiting
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. Call to get help now
Someone who is taking Opana as part of cancer treatment, for example, will usually turn to a doctor if they experience any adverse reactions. However, those who take the drug without supervision or in excess of their prescription are more at risk of suffering severe side effects. They are also more likely to avoid medical help when they need it most.
Someone who is taking it without a prescription is often taking the drug without the time-release coating, which increases their chance of experiencing adverse effects. Because they may experience severe side effects, they may not realize they need help, they could be too incapacitated to seek help or they may be reluctant to seek help because they do not have a prescription for the substance.
It’s easy to see how this situation can spiral out of control. Someone who is abusing it may hesitate in going to the ER when they have a serious reaction, and this can kill them.
In addition, this drug is a Schedule II Controlled Substance, so the penalties involved in selling or trafficking Opana are serious.
Opana vs. Oxycontin
As Opana abuse statistics suggest the use of it is on the rise, statistics also show the abuse of OxyContin has declined. In fact, the two drugs are alike — in many ways, the decrease in OxyContin abuse is one reason behind the increase in Opana addiction.
The types of prescription drugs that are abused change over time, often as a result of public awareness campaigns and drug manufacturer changes. In the case of oxymorphone and OxyContin, it is a manufacturing change that caused Opana to suddenly become popular.
Before 2010, the drug OxyContin was often in the news as addiction rates for the drug increased. In 2010, the manufacturers of the painkiller changed the medication so that it was harder to crush or snort, making it harder to get a high from the prescription medication. As abuse of OxyContin declined, other drugs rose in popularity.
Opana is an opiate painkiller, much like OxyContin. When it was first released, it could be crushed and then snorted or injected the same way to produce a similar high and feelings of confidence and euphoria. Once OxyContin became unavailable as a recreational drug, many turned to Opana as a substitute. As Opana abuse overtook OxyContin addiction, the manufacturers of Opana changed their formula as well to prevent abuse.
How Is Opana Consumed?
Opana is prescribed in the form of a pill, which has a time-release coating. The coating ensures that when the drug is prescribed and taken as directed, the medication provides longer-term relief from pain.
Patients who take the drug under medical supervision have to take their medication at specific times during the day. Opana is not a “take as needed” pill. Usually, doctors begin with a small dose and increase the dose if the patient shows no adverse reactions.
The special coating on Opana tablets makes it is harder to experience a high from the medication unless larger quantities are consumed. As a result, many people who abuse the drug often inject the substance. Usually, the pills are crushed and dissolved in water so that it can be injected. With this method, the time-release coating is gone and the drug goes directly into the bloodstream, creating a stronger and faster high.
Opana is also often snorted. Users crush the pills to avoid the time-released coating and snort the pills through the nose. This gets around the special coating and releases all the drug at once. Some users also choose to crush Opana pills and chew them. This also delivers a large dosage quickly.
Opana users get them a number of ways. They may:
- Purchase the drug from seniors or patients who have gotten the medication for pain
- Go to clinics or doctors who are willing to write a prescription with only a quick check-up
- Buy from a dealer
- Fake or steal prescriptions
- Rob a pharmacy or break into homes to find Opana
If you find yourself tempted to access the drug through one of these means, or know a loved one who is, it’s time to seek help.
Symptoms of Opana Abuse
Do you think you or a loved one may be addicted to Opana? There are several Opana abuse signs you can look out for:
- Isolation from family and friends
- Inability to keep a job
- Sleeping until noon or later
- New friends that supply Opana or other substances
- Money problems
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Lying or depression
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Mood swings
- Inability to get through a day without using Opana or other substances
- Falling asleep randomly during conversations or everyday tasks
- Confusion, irritability or memory problems
If you notice these or other signs in yourself or a loved one and would like information about treatment options for Opana addiction, contact a physician or rehabilitation professional.
You can always contact 12 Keys for a consultation about treatment for Opana abuse. We have helped many families affected by Opana and prescription drug use. We use medically-managed programs as well as one-on-one counseling, group counseling sessions, cognitive behavior therapy, motivational interviewing and other methods to help those who want to reclaim their lives. Call to get help now
The Risks of Opana Abuse
Addiction to Opana causes devastation. People who battle addiction to this substance often face severe practical and health challenges:
- Money problems. It is expensive. Depending on the dose, an Opana pill can sell on the street for $90 and most users seek out multiple pills a day. In many cases, they can’t easily hold down a job because they are pursuing Opana. Some users lose their homes, careers and all their savings to Opana.
- Health effects. Like all powerful drugs, Opana involves side effects and comes with a risk of allergic reactions. Taking the drug in excess and without the time-release coating can make the side effects even more likely. Patients may experience stomach upsets, confusion, fever, dizziness and other serious side effects.
- Overdose risks. The risk of overdose is high because this drug is more powerful than OxyContin.
- Social problems. Users who seek these pills may have a hard time being there for family and friends. In some cases, the drug causes breakdowns of families and friendships as users resort to lying or stealing because they become dependent on the substance.
- Legal issues. If users resort to illegal activity so they can afford them, they may face years in jail.
- Lifestyle issues. People who abuse painkillers often spend much of their time seeking a high or experiencing the euphoric feeling of taking the drug. They usually sleep most of the day and cannot function without the drug. They eventually cannot hold a job or take care of basic life responsibilities.
- Practical risks. Doses of Opana can cause dizziness and confusion. Someone who is abusing the drug can make poor choices when trying to take care of everyday tasks. For example, if they try to drive while under the influence, they may find themselves in a serious car accident or suffering from other severe injuries.
These risks from abusing any drug can be serious.
Overdoses Can and Do Happen
Opana abuse has a high risk of overdose. The drug is very powerful and the high lasts only for a short time, which can push users to use more and more of the substance as they seek the euphoric effects. Opana is stronger than OxyContin, so users who are familiar with OxyContin can easily overdose on Opana because they mistakenly think they can handle the drug.
Opana overdose symptoms can include:
- Severe fatigue or drowsiness
- Muscle weakness
- Disorientation and confusion
- Cold, damp, or clammy skin
- Very small pupils
- Difficulties breathing or shallow breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Opana is also very habit-forming. As users become used to the drug, they need more and more of the drug to experience the same high. As a result, users may be tempted to take the drug more often or in larger doses to experience the same effects. If they misjudge how much to take, overdose can be a common result, especially if it is mixed with other opiates or with alcohol.
Opana and HIV: What’s the Connection?
In 2015, officials in Indiana issued a warning to the public about a rise in HIV cases linked to Opana use. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, between January and mid-June 2015 Scott County saw 170 new HIV cases, many linked to Opana abuse.
Officials reported that Opana’s short-term high means that this drug has a higher needle use rate. Users need to take the drug more frequently than other opioids to keep their high, so needle sharing is more frequent. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, users of Opana may inject the drug 4-15 times each day and may share needles with up to five people during each use. This means even greater exposure to the risks that all people who share needles may face.
In addition to increasing the risk of HIV, Opana abuse can increase the risks of Hepatitis C and other conditions that can be passed along by sharing needles. To combat these risks, authorities in Indiana recommended improved awareness, increased access to testing, and programs to help people get access to safer needles and the health services they need.
Opana: A Deadly Problem
There is no doubt that Opana is a deadly problem — and a growing one. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of Opana-related fatalities in Florida increased 109% (to 493 fatalities), suggesting that not only is Opana abuse on the rise, but it’s claiming lives. Other states reported similar increases in fatalities linked to it. In Kentucky in 2010, for example, about 2% of overdose victims had oxymorphone in their blood. By 2011, that number had increased to 23%.
Why are these painkillers so deadly? The drug itself is very powerful — powerful enough to cause harm when not taken as directed. In addition to drug overdoses, Opana can become deadly when not used as directed. For example, pregnant women who take the drug may lose their babies if they take Opana. The drug can also cause life-threatening side effects when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Seeking Help for Opana Addiction
Once you have the information about Opana abuse, you may realize that you need assistance. If that is the case, contact 12 Keys for a consultation. 12 Keys provides Opana abuse treatment as well as rehabilitation and treatment for a variety of substances and prescription medications.
Opana addiction treatment at 12 Keys begins with a supervised detox treatment to assist with the withdrawal process. After that, treatment offers counseling, motivational interviewing and other forms of therapy.
With attentive case managers, modern treatment and flexible programs, 12 Keys is based on the 12 step method and offers compassionate and personalized assistance to ensure that you or your loved ones get the best chance possible at sobriety. Contact 12 Keys today for a consultation.