“The person comes to see the drug as not just something that is maybe nice and something that relieves the pain but instead as something that is crucial to my very existence and their whole life starts to turn around access to this drug.”
The Center for Disease Control says that opioid addiction is one of the top four epidemics facing the country right now. The US consumes over 80% of the worlds opioids, over 90% of the worlds oxycodone.
Rob Valuck, a pharmacy professor at the University of Colorado, he is coordinating center director for the state’s Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. “We experience over 40 opioid overdose deaths in the country every day. In Colorado it’s now 41 for the month.” Valuck says that about two thirds are from prescription opioids but he says there is a correlation with prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.
“Once they start with prescription drugs or whether they start with something else, they end up in a state where they’ll use whatever they can find and it’s often cheaper most places to go get heroin on the street than to purchase OxyContin.”
Valuck says that 73% of people addicted to painkillers start by using leftover prescription drugs that had been prescribed to someone else. “It’s people who looked in the medicine cabinet of a family member or friend and started taking something recreationally.”
There are several locations around the metro area where people can drop off left over prescriptions:
- 300 Dillon Ridge Road, Dillon.
- 400 North Parkway, Breckenridge.
- Wellington E. Webb Center for Primary Care, 301 W. Sixth Ave., Denver.
- 3400 Youngfield St., Wheat Ridge.
- 4271 S. Buckley Road, Aurora.
- 9551 S. University Blvd., Highlands Ranch.
- 2810 Quebec St., Denver.
- 100 Founders Parkway, Castle Rock.
- 1173 Bergen Parkway, Evergreen.
- 4857 S. Broadway, Englewood.
- 4201 E. 72nd Ave., Unit D, Commerce City.
Local law enforcement also offer drop off facilities around the state, click here for the full list.
The Boulder County Sheriff has an ongoing drop off box for leftover prescription drugs at their office, 5600 Flatiron Parkway. No needles or liquids accepted.
OxyContin’s 12-hour problem
Harriet Ryan with the LA Times recently co-authored an investigative report into OxyContin – how it is being labeled for use may be contributing to addiction. Ryan says that Oxycontin is currently labeled as being effective for pain management for 12 hours, but many patients report the effects of the drug wearing off after 8 hours or less. “Having gaps between doses of opioids sends you into narcotic withdrawal. People describe it as the worst pain they’ve ever experienced in their life…you get fever, chills, nausea, body aches, preoccupation, terrible anxiety. People that study addiction medicine say that when you go through this cycle of getting the high from the opioid and then you fall into withdrawal and you get this terrible pain and you think you’re going to die, and then you get another dose and it shoots you back up into euphoria, it creates this roller coaster effect.”
Ryan says this is called negative reinforcement. “The positive reinforcement is getting the high and the negative reinforcement is when you are suffering and the drug relieves that suffering.”
Research has shown that this cycle changes the brain and the cycle of going into narcotic withdrawal actually leads to addiction. “The person comes to see the drug as not just something that is maybe nice and something that relieves the brain but instead as something that is crucial to my very existence and their whole life starts to turn around access to this drug.”
Read the LA Times investigation into OxyContin: You want a description of hell?’ OxyContin’s 12-hour problem.