Rising OxyContin Abuse Leaves Officials Worried

  OxyContin is widely recognized as one of the most addictive prescription drugs on the market. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

OxyContin is widely recognized as one of the most addictive prescription drugs on the market. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

A report from Health Canada showing widespread abuse of the painkiller OxyContin has left some concerned that people do not take the drug seriously because it’s a prescription medication.

The drug is an opiate derivative that is frequently prescribed by doctors to patients suffering from moderate to severe pain, but also has high rates of misuse due to the euphoria it provides. The problem is the drug’s highly addictive nature, which can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms not unlike morphine or heroin.

Just over 460 people have died from overdoses of OxyContin in an estimated five years, according to an investigation by the Toronto Star.

The Star also concluded that addiction rates related to OxyContin are rising. Last year, Ontario had spent $54 million funding the drug, compared to only $19 million five years ago.

Dr. Henry Ho, a physician in North York, has prescribed OxyContin to patients suffering severe pain on several occasions. He said that people are more likely to get addicted to OxyContin because it doesn’t carry the same stigma as illicit drugs.

“People assume because it’s a prescription medication it’s safe,” Ho said. “You can argue in one aspect that’s true because it’s regulated, therefore won’t have any inappropriate components,” he said.

“However on the other hand there are prescription medications such as OxyContin that can kill if misused.”

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse confirmed in a report on OxyContin that an overdose on the substance can have lethal results, especially for those who have not developed a tolerance.

These statements have been echoed by others who have had extensive experience with the drug, including senior detective Lonne Ratchford of the Toronto Police Services Drug Squad.

“When people look at OxyContin and compare that to say, heroin, they’re both opiate derivatives, but one has a much more serious connotation than the other,” Ratchford said.

According to Ho, OxyContin is “pretty close to the top” of the most abused prescription drugs.

He said he has had instances where patients have gotten addicted and reacted negatively when he expressed concerns about their dependence.

“I’ve had patients who will get very upset, they will say they disagree with my statement and that they’re not addicted,” Ho said.

In light of the Feb. 9 Toronto Star investigation, Canadian health officials were prompted to launch a national probe into the misuse of the drug.

The probe coincides with the FDA meeting with 16 drug makers on March 3, including Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, to discuss more prominent warning labels as well as restrictions on who can be prescribed the drug.



  1. You should know what I know about OxyContin. I know that in April 2002, I lost my beautiful 29 year old daughter Jill to prescribed OxyContin. I know I worked tirelessly from 2002 until today, to expose Purdue Pharma for criminally marketing OxyContin. I know that in July 2007, I was asked by U.S. Attorney Brownlee of Virginia to make an impact statement in Federal Court at the sentencing of Purdue Pharma’s three CEO’s Michael Friedman, Howard Udell and Paul Goldenheim for convincing physicians and patients that OxyContin was less likely to be addictive or abused. I know in my statement I called them monsters, sheer evil, bastards and I compared them to Hitler for being responsible for a Holocaust of death and addiction in every state in the country in epidemic proportion. I know they pled guilty were sentenced to 400 hours of community service at a drug rehab facility, put on20probation and fined a hefty fine (which was very affordable by a $10 billion privately held pharmaceutical company). I know Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy asked me to testify against Purdue Pharma in front of the U.S. Senate – also in July 2007. I know that Purdue Pharma continues to market OxyContin criminally – most recently for “pregnancy pain” and for the “undertreatment of pain in infants and pediatric patients.” What they didn’t know was that I now work with the FDA and the FDA and I monitor all of Purdue Pharma’s activities. The convicted criminals were told by the FDA they were not allowed to market to the most vunerable of patients – pregnant women and infants. Purdue Pharma needed to be firmly advised of this because they have no conscience. I look forward to further action in 2009 against Purdue Pharma and in particular J. David Haddox, the gate keeper of Purdue Pharma. I continue my work for Jill and for the scores of innocent people who have died or have become addicted to OxyContin because of an out of control pharmaceutic al company — who is sheer evil. Marianne Skolek

    Marianne Skolek
    Activist for Victims of OxyContin and
    Purdue Pharma – a criminally convicted pharmaceutical company
    http ://blog.nj.com/njv_bob_braun/2007/07/sometimes_only_justice_can_rel.html

  2. Daniel Hoksh says:

    Well said Marianne.

    I am sorry for your loss.

    I hope these vile scum get what they deserve.

  3. Marting Shultz says:

    It is truly sad to hear what has happened to your daughter.
    I know first hand the addictivness that oxies posses, i have been addicted to them for the last year and a half and i am now in a state sponsered rehab program

  4. Intense article.

  5. Thanks for sharing this informative post . i will visit this blog again

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