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Poor Man's Heroin

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Biology 103
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Poor Man's Heroin

Brie Farley

A plaintiffs group in Washington D.C. has filed a $5.2 billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP and Abbott Laboratories Inc. charging the drug companies with allegedly failing to warn patients the painkiller OxyContin is dangerously addictive. Do you think they'll win?

" Oxy, oxies, oxycotton, OC s, killers, oceans, O's, oxycoffins, Hillbilly Heroin." Each of these words is another name for the drug, OxyContin, marketed by Purdue Pharma LP. Addiction and abuse of the drug, crime and fatal overdoses have all been reported as a result of OxyContin use. (1).

This drug was approved by the FDA in 1995, and is a 12-hour time-released form of oxycodone, an opium derivative, which is the same active ingredient in Percodan and Percocet. OxyContin is the longest lasting oxycodone on the market. Opiates provide pain relief by acting on opioid receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and possibly in the tissues directly. Opioids, natural or synthetic classes of drugs that act like morphine, are the most effective pain relievers available. (2).

Oxycodone has been around for decades and taken for post surgical pain, broken bones, arthritis, migraines and back pain. Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant. Its appears to work through stimulating the opioid receptors found in the central nervous system that activate responses ranging from analgesia to respiratory depression to euphoria. While Percocet and Percodan have about five milligrams of oxycodone, OxyContin tablets contain oxycodone in amounts of 10, 20, 40, and 80 milligrams. ( 4). A 160- milligram tablet became available in July 2000. Thus, OxyContin is a high potency painkiller, intended only for use by terminal cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers. People who take the drug repeatedly can develop a tolerance or resistance to the drug's effects. A cancer patient can take a dose of oxycodone on a regular basis that would be fatal in a person never exposed to oxycodone. Most individuals who abuse oxycodone seek to gain the euphoric effects, mitigate pain, and avoid withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone or heroin abstinence. The strength, duration, and known dosage of OxyContin are the primary reasons the drug is attractive to abusers and legitimate prescribers.

Although designed to be swallowed whole, abusers have found other ways to ingest OxyContin. Abusers often chew tablets, or crush the tablets and snort the powder. Because oxycodone is water soluble, crushed tablets can be dissolved in water and the solution can be injected. Both of these methods lead to rapid release and the absorption of oxycodone. Combining any use of OxyContin with alcohol is deadly. OxyContin and heroin have similar effects, so both appeal to the same abuser population. The powerful prescription pain reliever has become a hot new street drug. It s the so-called poor man s heroin, says Capt. Michael Holsapple of the Kokomo Police Department. (5). A 40 mg tablet of OxyContin by prescription costs approximately $4 or $400 for a 100-tablet bottle in a retail pharmacy. Generally, OxyContin sells for between 50 cents and $1 per mg on the street. Therefore, the same 100-tablet bottle purchased for $400 at a pharmacy can sell for $2,000 to $4,000 illegally. How does this compare to the street price of heroin? One bag of heroin sells for about $40, according to 1998 findings in Ireland. (6,7). A bottle of OxyContin containing one hundred tablets is clearly more for the money. (4).

Sometimes, OxyContin can be obtained easily in clinics. For a brief visit and the appropriate presenting complaint, patients may leave with a prescription for OxyContin. Many physicians are not formally trained to identify drug-seeking behavior. (4). In April 2002, the US Drug Enforcement Agency reported that OxyContin has been implicated as the direct cause of main contributing factor in 146 deaths and a likely contributor in an additional 318 deaths. Based on their findings, only nine of the reported deaths involved injecting the drug and only one death related to snorting. This indicates even non-abusers may be adversely affected. It has been alleged that Purdue Pharma L.P has marketed the drug excessively while underplaying how addictive it is. Reported warnings about the drug found on the Internet include:

1. This medicine can be habit-forming. You should not use more than the prescribed amount.

2. Whole oxycodone tablets may appear in your stool. This is no cause for worry because the medicine is absorbed when the tablet is still in your body.

3. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking this medicine.

4. This medicine can cause dizziness or drowsiness. Be careful if driving a car or using machinery.

5. If you have taken this medicine for several weeks, ask your doctor before stopping, as you may need to take smaller and smaller doses before you stop the medicine completely. (5).

These precautions are not uncommon for any prescription pain reliever. However, Purdue Pharma LP has not included information regarding the drug s similarity to heroin, and has not stressed the severity of the complications. A recent newspaper article reported that OxyContin s sales, which exceeded $1 billion in the United States in the year 2000, are said to be the result of an aggressive marketing strategy to physicians, pharmacists and patients that misrepresented the appropriate uses of OxyContin and failed to adequately disclose and discuss the safety issues and possible adverse effects of OxyContin use (4) .

Seven people who are former addicts or relatives of addicts filed the Washington D.C. lawsuit. In May, Purdue said it had met with officials from the DEA because of the agency s concerns about its illegal diversion and abuse. Around the same time, Purdue Pharma said it tried to reduce abuse of the drug by halting distribution of the drug in 160mg tablets. According to the lawsuit, defendants, made misrepresentations or failed to adequately and sufficiently warn individuals regarding the appropriate uses, risks, and safety of OxyContin. Specifically, the suit quotes a May 2000 U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letter to Purdue Pharma ordering the company to cease use of an advertisement for the drug that appeared in a medical journal. A section from the warning letter is quoted that suggests the advertisement inaccurately represents the drug as a first-line treatment for osteoarthritis. The suit alleges inappropriate marketing of OxyContin, that the drug has been inappropriately prescribed and used, unnecessarily putting people at risk of addiction to OxyContin (4).

Should it be assumed that the general public is aware of the effects of opiates? Is it the responsibility of the physician to be suspect of warning labels on every newly marketed drug? Does the word "addiction"? always prevent chronic pain sufferers from taking a miracle drug ? And finally, will anyone, especially teens, ever stop experimenting with drugs? Your answers to the above questions were probably doubtful, but this does not mean that the D.C. lawsuit isn t worth fighting for. We should be personally careful, but we also need to emphasize our right to be thoroughly and accurately informed about what we put in our bodies.


WWW Sources

1) Oxy Abuse Kills , Informative and Realistic Site

2) Government Information about OxyContin , Facts

3) About OxyContin , Facts and Information

4) OxyContin Addiction Help , Facts and Resources where to get help from addiction

5) Yahoo Health , Basic Information

6) MapInc , Article about the increase in Heroin prices in Ireland

7) Oanda , Monetary Conversion Site



Comments made prior to 2007

It's my studied opinion that oxycodone , in any form , has no reason (NONE) for inclusion in the U.S.P. . The analgesic properties of this drug are , in fact , minimal . It's therapeutic window of efficacy is dangerously narrow . It is unfortunate that other Schedule II medications , such as M.S. , have been historically branded as "evil" , thereby elevating the very much more dangerous , ineffective , and costly drug to a status of legitimacy .

If one were truly open-minded and interested in ameliorating moderate to severe pain , effort should be expended towards the decriminalization of cannabis . ... but then that would probably obviate the need for 30% to 40% of the worlds pharmaceutical companies ! ... W.M. Martin, 7 December 2006



i had acl reconstruction in 03 and 05 and the doctor just kept giving me lortab 10, percocet 10, zanax 2mg and soma over and over for 4 yrs they didnt try other routes and now im addicted and have to go to a methadone center to het off. do i have a case? ... Scott Powers, 24 October 2007


Domenico's picture

Poor mans heroin?

I've never understood why they call OxyContin 'poor mans heroin'. Here in Toronto, it's at least 50 cents a milligram, which puts an 80mg pill at $40. 80mgs usually lasts me a day. Meanwhile, for $40, I can get enough heroin to last me about 3, maybe 4 days. I love oxy so much more though. There's nothing quite like drinking a mickey of vodka, then shooting up 40mgs of oxy. In fact, I'm going to go bang a 40 right not...:)

house 's picture


I dont know if were aloud to ask anything but here it goes...How long does oxy stay stable in water? What I mean is say for instance you did your "works" and had to travel with it hong long could it stay in the syringe before its wasted. I know this is a horrible question but I cant find an answer so please let me know either way.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Oxy help

Please help?
My sister has been on this stuff for
years. Recently, her kids have found
her on the floor and she is incoherent
and forgetting things. Sometimes she
drinks too. I want to help her but do
not know where to begin. Is medical
intervention necessary? My family is
afraid for her life now and will try
anything. Where should we begin? What
would be a waste of our time?
Any advice is really appreciated.
Thank you

Serendip Visitor's picture

I know too the effects on family

I am praying for her recovery. I have found that I have a 21 year old rellative that is strung out on that stuff. You can only pray that they realize they need help. we cannot force it on them. God Speed and much Love

Serendip Visitor's picture

The worst chemical known to man!

I am glad you mentioned alcohol in with this question and request for help as it is the worst thing that a human can consume and is completely legal and in some cases praised. I am sorry to hear about your sister and that she is having problems in her life but When people take there medicine correctly It by no means causes a person to lye on the floor incoherent and forget things. In fact the longer they take there medicine correctly the more there body adapts to it and helps them live a better quality of life. It is unfortunate that some people find it necessary to abuse it with other chemical such as alcohol"Which in my opinion is one of the hardest, most harmful chemicals a person can ingest". It affects ever organ in the human body(Alcohol), And in most drinking cultures is 1000% accepted among people.Usual when there is a problem with chem. abuse/drinking the problem is underlined with a mental condition that a person is trying to block out and uses what is easiest to do that."And it is not that Oxycontin/ is a horrible drug" If the person is willing to want to change there behavior than that is what it takes to help her. Something inside of her will want to change. You can not force your will upon her. Good luck and I hope for you the best!

Serendip Visitor's picture


Hi I just wanted to comment on what you are so correctly put it that alcohol is the worse drug on this planet. Thank you on what nobody wants to admit is that it is so deadly. Have you ever heard of someone taking what people consider the deadly drugs Herion, Pot, etc basically any pill drugs that are illegal and go out and : drive their cars and kill people, because they are so drunk they couldn't even remember their names, but you can buy this stuff at every corner in the united states legally. Have you ever heard of anyone smoking pot or doing heroin ever want to jump in their cars and go driving around like some race car driver and hospitalize or kill someone else which 9 times out of 10 is what happens. Another one is getting into fights especially with a weaker person than them because this makes them feel like a real man in front of there friends ( they never pick a fight with someone stronger than themselveles, this is the chicken crap factor.) The list is to long but you get the idea and this stuff is legal and the same people are the ones making the most noise of the dangers of drugs other than the ones you can get legally and are the most dangerous, also the ones the same people go home at night and booze it up and beat there wife's. I would like to hear from anyone that know's of people taking these so called dangerous drugs that are illegal and do some of these things.
I pesonally never seen anyone smoke pot and want to go and drive their car: My experience is that when people smoke pot the last thing they want to do is go driving they just want to kick back and relax.
I have never seen people do what is suppose to be the devil's drug Herion and say like let's go out and get in our cars and try to kill as many people as we can man with our 4,000 lb car that is deadly weapon man we can really have a good time with it man.
I apoligize if my humor didn't come across like I wanted it to but I did the best I could with what is not a joke at all.

Anonymous's picture


Oxycontin is a good drug when your supply of H is not around. Im from Ireland; And 100-40mg tabs only costs €50 on the streets its not a big seller! H costs €50 of a half gram, and its not even a full half you get! I only smoke H. But oxycontin is great for easing WD Pains from H. Oxy is very much like H, well if you take 5-6-40mg pills chewing them of course! lol!
Keep on Rockin'!!!! lol

larry's picture

getting off oxycontin

With serious back and knee pain I went to a pain manangement doc. the first pescrption was for morphene 12 hour release. It didn't work so they put me on oxycontin. A yaer later I got off the stuff, it was rough the first few weeks it's like having the flu all the time. All your small aches and pains come back.But it's worth it to get off the stuff, my sense off smell has gotten better, i don't feel as tired all the time. I took saome darvocet the first few days I was coming off oxy that is the one hurdle I could'nt do cold turkey. When I first came off it felt like a million ants were crawling around inside my body and sand was behind my eyes. Now I'm clean amd only take asprin

Drug Rehabilitation's picture

It is very important the

It is very important the plantiffs group win this to make a point about prescription drugs. Their addictive value is so often miss-calculated. Your average person will underestimate them since they are apparently safe according to doctors and pharmacists we have no reason not to fully trust. Many who become addicted don’t even see it as something serious and refuse to get help from a drug detox, it’s a real shame and awareness needs to be raised.

pro-drug's picture

answer to: is injecting oxy the same as H?

no way, oxy is no where near as strong. yes, they are both opiates, so the addictive aspect is very similar. oxy has a more euphoric feel. crushing and shooting 80mgs. is not even as strong as one good $10 pack of H . But it does have a very uplifting, euphoric effect--good for lifting depression. People go on and on about the addictiveness of these drugs, but the truth of the matter is that people who become long-term addicts are so because of their own personal and psychological problems. People who are healthy and well-adjusted (very few around these days) manage to get out of the drug loop, even if they do get sucked in for awhile. If you cant get out, then you end up playing the addiction out 'till the real demons show in a round about way, opiate addiction is therapeutic.

-recovered H. addict

Stephanie Sexton's picture

My opinion

you know u are so wrong about that. oxycontin is government approved heroin in my opinion. My mom used to be a heroin addict, and my dad is a oxy addict. And let me tell u somthing Oxycontin is just as bad as heroin.

will's picture


is injecting oxycotton pretty much the same as injecting heroin?

Stephanie Sexton's picture

In my eyes yes. I know people

In my eyes yes. I know people who have done both. Only oxy addicts are meaner and more violent. in my opinion.