New high-dose pain pill poses addiction problems, doctors warn

New high-dose pain pill poses addiction problems, doctors warn

By Kelly Roncace, South Jersey Times

“Swallow tablets whole. Do not crush or chew.”

This warning appears on bottles of several pain killers, and for good reason.

With some drugs, if you break, crush or bite the pill, it sends an immediate high dose of medication into your system.

This is a huge concern surrounding the recent FDA approval of Zohydro — a hydrocodone-based, extended-release pain killer with little protection against breakage.

Dr. Richard Jermyn, director of the RowanSOM Neuromusculoskeletal Institute — the comprehensive pain center at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine — explained that Zohydro is basically the extended release version of Vicodin.

“Vicodin contains hydrocodone and is a short-action drug that lasts four to six hours, similar to Percocet,” he said, noting that Percocet contains oxycodone. “Oxycontin is the long-acting formula for Percocet.”

When Oxycontin was approved several years ago, “it was very easy to tamper with,” Jermyn said.

“All you had to do was break it, bite it or snort it and it turned that high, slow-release dose into an immediate 80 milliliters,” Jermyn said.

Purdue Pharma, the company that produces Oxycontin, eventually had to change the formula to make it more difficult to tamper with the pill.

“The problem with this new drug, Zohydro, is there is no tamper proof version of the drug,” Jermyn said. “It’s like going back 15 years and not learning what we have already learned from Oxycontin.”

Pain killers containing hydrocodone and oxycodone are needed for some patients.

“Do we say stop making all pain relievers that are long acting?” Jermyn said. “No. There are people who can benefit from them and no one should die in pain.”

However, these high-dose medications are getting onto the street and into the hands of addicts.

“There must be safeguards for overdose and addiction,” Jermyn said. “We have to learn from the past. We can’t allow the product to get into the community.”

One side effect of these types of drugs is euphoria.

“Addicts build a tolerance to that euphoria quickly, but not to the pain,” Jermyn said. “An addict wants that euphoria every time so they keep going up in dosage, and that can end in over dose.”

Many doctors and pharmacists have spoken out about their concern over the approval of Zohydro, and Jermyn said he hopes the FDA will reconsider this version of the pain killer.

“I, for one, won’t be writing prescriptions for it, not when I know there are drugs that are more abuse-proof out there,” Jermyn said. “It will be interesting to see if some pharmacies will refuse to stock it because people break in to get it. We saw it with other drugs.”

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Date Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 12:45
Source URL: South Jersey Times