One way to discourage the switch to other opioids would be to develop more slow-release versions that cannot be swallowed for a high, Cicero said. Unlike Oxycontin, prescription opioids like Vicodin contain acetaminophen (Tylenol), which makes them less desirable to snort because they can be irritating. There is, however, a "very grave concern" that this would push more people to heroin use, Cicero said.
"If you deter the use of one particular compound, they are not going to stop taking drugs," Cicero said. Every one of the 103 patients who filled out longer surveys said they would replace Oxycontin with something else.
Instead of focusing our attention on stemming opioid supply, the government, scientists and drug makers need to work on ending demand, Cicero said. Many of the people who end up in treatment centers for opioid abuse started abusing when they were 14 or 15 years old, he added.
Steps could be taken to reduce demand through school programs that teach about opioids, advertisements that put opioid addiction in the same light as crack and cocaine, and better diagnosis of children who are depressed or anxious who may be more likely to start taking opioids, Cicero said.
To learn about Oxycontin abuse, visit the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
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