30 Dec 2013
Would you swallow paint thinner or iodine? Would you inject yourself with lighter fluid or gasoline? Of course not. But desperate addicts living in impoverished areas of the world have turned to a drug that is made up of these kinds of toxic ingredients. The drug is known as Krokodil and it is a deadly substance.
The History Of Krokodil
Krokodil first appeared in the early 20th Century when it held a Swiss patent and was sold under the name Permonid. It is a derivative of morphine, but is 8-10 times stronger than morphine. Because of this, the drug also has a long history of non-medical use.
More recently, the drug resurfaced in poor areas of Russia around 2002 where it was seen as a cheap substitute for heroin. Krokodil is a concoction of codeine and any number of harsh chemicals which might be found around the house or in the garage. It has been cheap to make because until not long ago codeine was sold over-the-counter in Russia.
From 2002-2010 use of Krokodil spread across Russia, dragging what is guessed to be several million addicts in its wake. Exact figures on the numbers of users are hard to come by since the drug is essentially a form of suicide. Many users die within two years of starting to inject Krokodil. Why would people take such a scary drug? Because it is three times cheaper than heroin and 10 times stronger than codeine.
Krokodil did not remain in Russia. It is believed to have spread across Europe, taking hold in poor, mostly rural regions. It is now thought that Krokodil has crossed the ocean to Central or perhaps North America. There was a highly publicized report of a young girl who showed up in a hospital in Mexico City with what doctors thought to be a severe STD. Instead, it turned out that the girl had been injecting Krokodil into her genital area for a period of months.
Nasty Effects Of Krokodil On The Body
Krokodil is gruesome in that the drug destroys the user’s body from within. The drug causes blood vessels to break open and nearby tissue to die. Like the corrosive agents used to make the drug, lesions eat away a person’s flesh right down to the bone. It is called Krokodil because at the site where the person injects themselves with the drug the skin takes on a toughened, scale-like appearance. It gets a foothold among groups where heroin is too expensive. In the U.S. evidence shows a similar trend with many turning away from expensive prescription drugs in favor of far less costly street heroin.
Krokodil In The U.S.?
There have been unsubstantiated reports of Krokodil’s presence here in the United States, but so far no reports have been verified. Bringing a sample into a reputable lab is all that would be needed to determine that the drug has indeed come to America. Experts suggest that there is really no reason for Krokodil to find a home in this country.
Drug enforcement agents, addiction specialists and others say that the fact that Americans can afford less immediately lethal street drugs is reason enough to forego Krokodil. Though Krokodil, like methamphetamine, is a drug made as a home-brew, it is still hard to find, so why would drug users go looking for it? Lastly, Krokodil’s high is dependent on codeine – a substance that is far more controlled in this country than in other parts of the world.
So while the drug has definitely been traveling around the globe in recent years, it does not appear to have landed here as of yet. Still, the hopelessness that would drive a person to use such a frighteningly destructive drug is enough to warrant concern here at home and around the world.
Read More About Reported Cases Of Krokodil Use In The U.S.
10 Dec 2013
A report out of the United Kingdom highlights the widespread distribution of illegal street drugs, with the researchers calling the war on drugs a failure. The experts say it’s time to address drug use through a public health approach rather than as a criminal justice initiative.
Illegal Drugs – Stronger, Cheaper And More Readily Available
The study from the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, which examined decades of drug surveillance data involving the trafficking of marijuana, cocaine and opiates like heroin, showed that illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more available than ever.
The findings highlighted the decrease of drug prices between 1990 and 2010, while purity and potency increased. In Europe the price of opiates and cocaine decreased by 74 percent and 51 percent during that time period.
In addition, seizures of drugs increased during the study period. In most locations that were monitored the amount of cocaine, cannabis and heroin confiscated by law enforcement increased substantially during the years examined.
Should The Focus On Curbing Drug Use Shift?
The authors of the report note that the findings should be taken as an indication that current strategies to curb drug distribution are failing. However, despite these concerns, the focus for national governments has been law enforcement. Other approaches, such as decriminalization and legal regulation, have not been broadly incorporated.
Co-author Dr. Evan Wood, scientific chairman of the Centre, explained that the focus should shift to drug use as a public health concern rather than a criminal charge. Wood also talked about the need for increased addiction treatment availability and other public health strategies.
Just days before the findings were released, a senior UK police officer offered his opinion that decriminalization would be more effective than the current approach.
How Decriminalization Of Drug Offenders May Be A Positive Thing
Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Police, voiced his position that drug users needed treatment and care, not criminal justice. Barton also said that decriminalization would threaten the motivation of dealers by taking away their income and power.
Instead, prohibition funds the drug dealers, says Barton, who is calling for an open debate that acknowledges the problems that still exist in the fight to reduce drug use.
Recovery Treatment Or Criminal Charges?
While the overall global strategy is prohibition, there are some national governments incorporating different policies. In Portugal individuals caught possessing drugs can avoid criminal charges if they undergo treatment.
While a more public health-focused approach seems clear to some in the scientific community, public officials have been less enthusiastic. No political party in the UK supports a legal regulation approach when it comes to hard drugs, but some politicians support legalizing marijuana.
Many recognize the delicate balance between treating drug use as a criminal justice issue and providing support for the recovery of the user. The community must be protected from the influence of the drug market, but the individual must be supported in their recovery, too.
Read More About Drug Use In The News
A new drug that has devastating consequences for its users may have finally been confirmed to have made it into the U.S. The drug is called Krokodil, and it first appeared in Russia as a cheap, homemade substitute for heroin. The name, which means crocodile in Russian, refers to the scaly sores that appear almost immediately after using this drug. The sores begin under the skin and can be so bad that the drug has been described as flesh-eating. The result is horrific and can lead to scarring, amputation, and even death.
Krokodil Beginnings In Russia
Homemade injectable opioid drugs are nothing new in Russia. Resourceful people there have been creating and using their own drugs to get high for decades. In the 1990s, the heroin trade from Afghanistan increased and drug users did not need to make their own substitutes. Heroin addiction became a serious and widespread problem in the country.
Over the last few years, the Russian government has targeted illegal opium sales to try to solve the problem of heroin addiction. As sources of heroin dwindled and the product became more expensive, the practice of making heroin substitutes at home came back into favor. Krokodil is easily made from codeine, a prescription opioid, and other household chemicals.
Krokodil gives the user a high similar to heroin, but with even worse side effects. The green and black colored sores and ulcers begin to appear soon after the first use, and get worse as use of the drug continues. The drug, with the chemical name desmorphine, as well as the other chemicals that go into making it, tend to clump up and stay inside blood vessels all over the body. The clumps lead to infections and sores that spread and worsen.
Disputed Krokodil Cases In The U.S.
Experts in the field of illegal drugs have long feared that Krokodil would eventually show up in the U.S. Several disputed cases have been reported, including a doctor in the Chicago area who is convinced he treated two young women with the sores caused by Krokodil use. Cases in California and other states were also unconfirmed.
Reputable Case Of Krokodil Use In The U.S.
Now, it would seem that the worst fears of some have been vindicated. Two doctors working at St. Mary’s Health Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, have published their findings from treating a victim of Krokodil use. They treated the 30-year-old man in December 2012. He had sores all over his legs. His skin was rotting away in places, and he had lost a finger on one hand to the infection. He told the doctors that he had been injecting himself with a synthetic heroin substitute that he made using codeine, gasoline, and other household chemicals. The admission, along with the sores, made a strong case that the doctors did treat a young man who had been using this scary new form of heroin.
Krokodile – Possible Future U.S. Epidemic?
If the doctors are right and Krokodil is now being used in the U.S., the implications are very serious. If drug users addicted to heroin and other opioids learn how to make this drug and can do so inexpensively, it could represent a new epidemic, much like what has been seen in Russia. The disfiguring effects of using Krokodil, as well as the addictive nature of the drug, mean that many people will suffer, and even die from using it. The Drug Enforcement Agency has yet to confirm the presence of Krokodil in the U.S., but with reports coming in from emergency rooms across the country, that confirmation does not seem to be far off.
Read More About Krokodil Claiming U.S. Victims
The 18th century British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke once famously declared: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” In the years since, Burke’s quote has been repeated often in slightly different forms by a variety of public figures, which is a testament to how much truth the sentiment behind it contains.
This statement could undoubtedly be applied quite aptly to the ongoing War on Drugs. Over the past several decades United States law enforcement agencies have spent over $1 trillion persecuting this war, and during that time hundreds of millions of tons of illegal drugs have been seized and destroyed here and around the world. And yet, much to the chagrin of those responsible for the continuation of this military-style anti-drug campaign, there is no evidence to suggest that any drug pipelines have been permanently closed off or that the flow of illegal substances has been reduced in any meaningful way as a result of this approach. In fact, the international drug trade appears to be more profitable and efficient than ever before.
Effects Of Drugs On The Black Market
The Sept. 30 edition of the online medical journal BMJ Open includes a report from a multi-national team of researchers who studied and analyzed international drug surveillance databases in order to identify long-term trends in the illegal drug trade. They discovered that despite the stalwart anti-drug efforts of law enforcement, officers and administrators from across the globe, over the last 20 plus years the cocaine, heroin and marijuana available on the international black market has gotten both stronger and less expensive.
In the United States, from 1990 to 2007 the potency of these three substances rose by 60 percent, 11 percent and 160 percent respectively, and yet the street price of these three popular illegal drugs actually fell by 80 percent over the same time period when adjusted for inflation. The increased strength of such drugs is a testament to the fact that demand for illegal substances has remained high enough to spur constant innovation in production methods, while their steadily dropping price shows that supplies are bountiful and that users of cocaine, heroin or marijuana are still very much operating in a buyer’s market.
War On Drugs And Illegal Drug Use
Contrary to hype and popular opinion, the War on Drugs was never designed to stop the trade of illegal substances entirely. Instead, its goal has been to disrupt supply chains just enough to drive prices up and make dangerous intoxicants unaffordable to many who might be tempted to experiment with them. But even this modest goal has proven elusive, and few if any honest observers still believe that ramped up law enforcement strategies will ever reduce illegal drug consumption or prevent millions of users from plunging headfirst into the dark canyon of substance abuse and addiction.
At the present time, the global black market drug trade generates about $350 billion in tax-free profits annually. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 22 million illegal drug users above the age of 12, and while the majority could not accurately be classified as addicts, those who do become dependent on substances like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine usually have no difficulty in obtaining the supplies they need to quench their addictive thirsts. And with drugs becoming stronger and cheaper, we may start seeing greater percentages of casual drug aficionados eventually succumbing to addiction, since these individuals will be able to afford greater quantities of illegal substances even as the high they are getting from what they are using intensifies.
Drug Popularity, Reputation And Availability
It is true that the rates of usage of drugs such as cocaine, angel dust and heroin have generally been declining over the years. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the drug war has been successful just because certain drugs have now gone out of style. Once a drug starts to get a bad reputation, its use will usually decline. But as some drugs become less popular, other illegal substances will inevitably flood the market to fill the void, and, as a result, the whole cycle of casual use, abuse, addiction and disillusionment just keeps repeating itself with no apparent end in sight.
What Can Help Drug Addiction?
We can only speculate about what might finally make the merry-go-round of drug dependency stop spinning—expanded availability of treatment, more drug courts, innovative educational campaigns, greater social awareness, a reduction in the rates of poverty and unemployment, community outreach programs, or some combination of all of the above. It seems clear, however, that more interdiction, indictment and incarceration will not make the decisive difference.
The “Just Say No” campaigns were mocked in their day and seem hopelessly quaint now. Trying to shame people into avoiding drugs has not worked any better than treating drug use as a crime. But in the end, illegal drug use will only decline precipitously if enough people decide the risk of addiction is too great to flaunt. So in a sense, it really is about just saying no, and being able to recognize the critically important reasons it is logical to do so. Cheaper and stronger means extreme danger, and consequently a refusal to get involved with drugs in the first place is the smartest decision one can make.
20 Nov 2013
Desomorphine, also known by the Russian nickname Krokodil or the English language equivalent Crocodile, is a synthetic substance based on the opioid narcotic drug morphine. This drug, outlawed in America, has much stronger chemical effects than morphine and produces severe side effects in long-term users that can include tissue destruction, limb loss or death. Desomorphine users commonly take a homemade form of the drug that contains one or more additional toxic substances. Until recently, desomorphine abuse was not known to affect any segment of the U.S. population. However, in September 2013, the country’s first identified cases of this abuse allegedly occurred in Phoenix, Arizona.
Morphine is an opioid substance taken directly from the sap of a plant called Papaver somniferum (commonly referred to as the opium poppy). Like all other natural and synthetic opioids, it achieves powerful, potentially addicting drug effects by accessing key portions of the brain and creating intense spikes in pleasure levels, as well as a reduced ability to feel pain. Desomorphine was invented in a laboratory setting in the 1930s by changing morphine molecules’ natural chemical structure. Compared to morphine, it produces roughly 10 times the level of effect at any given dose. This drug effect comes on rapidly and also fades away in a relatively short amount of time.
Even in its most chemically pure form, desomorphine is capable of producing significant damage when used repeatedly over time. The most common side effect of chronic use—a form of blood vessel and soft tissue damage that results in green, scaly skin—gives the drug its nickname, Krokodil (Crocodile). If left untreated, desomorphine-related vessel and tissue damage can ultimately result in tissue death (gangrene) or a clot- and inflammation-based ailment called thrombophlebitis. People with these conditions can lose their affected limbs to amputation or even die. Doctors can potentially combat the active drug effects of desomorphine with the anti-narcotic medication naloxone or other treatments used to address heroin addiction. However, there is no specific, fully developed treatment for the drug. In addition to dealing with the brain effects of desomorphine addiction, doctors commonly need to address the severe physical injuries associated with the drug’s use.
Today, desomorphine abuse doesn’t typically involve batches of the drug made in a laboratory. Instead, most users make an injectable form of the drug themselves by boiling tablets of another opioid narcotic, called codeine, then combining the resulting liquid with any one of a number of additional toxic additives, including gasoline, red phosphorus, hydrochloric acid or paint thinner. Together, these substances can produce a level of blood vessel and tissue damage far above that associated with pure desomorphine, and users can develop large pockets of rotting flesh or even lose their flesh all the way down to the bone. Current evidence indicates that chronic users of “bootleg” Krokodil commonly die within a period of two or three years.
International Patterns of Krokodil Usage
The first known cases of bootleg Krokodil abuse occurred among heroin users in Russia in 2003. These users were looking for a cheaper alternative to the normally available narcotics in their country. According to current estimates, roughly 1 million people in Russia and another million people in other European regions use the drug. However, these estimates are likely quite imprecise, and no one really knows how many people in Europe or other areas across the globe take some form of Krokodil. In the U.S., desomorphine belongs to a highly restricted class of substances called Schedule I substances. All drugs with this federal classification are illegal, present a strong potential for the onset of abuse and/or addiction, and have no accepted usefulness in medical treatment. Still, some amount of pharmaceutical-grade desomorphine likely enters the U.S. through illegal Internet sales or other unlawful avenues. Americans also have access to the materials required to make bootleg desomorphine.
First Krokodil Cases In The U.S.
In September 2013, a poison control center in Phoenix, Arizona, reported two cases of Krokodil abuse among local residents. The directors of this facility believe that the cases in question are related, a situation that indicates that use of the drug is not widespread. However, since they represent the first nationally reported incidences of Krokodil abuse in the U.S., the two cases are naturally garnering significant amounts of scrutiny and media attention. As of now, no one can truly say what course the use of homemade desomorphine will take among American IV drug abusers in the years and decades to come.
Read More About The Zombie Drug Finding It’s Way To The U.S.
News accounts of the party drug known as “molly” seem to have been replaced recently with reports of a much more frightening drug called krokodil. Health officials are now concerned that the synthetic drug, which is said to deliver a heroin-like high, has made its way into the United States. Physicians in Utah, Arizona, and, most recently, Illinois, have reported possible cases of krokodil use, putting drug addiction and health experts on alert.
Krokodil is a homemade version of a drug called desomorphine, which was developed in the 1930s as a morphine alternative. However, researchers found that it was up to 10 times stronger than morphine, so its use was discontinued. Illicit drug users now re-create desomorphine by using a base made from codeine, a narcotic used to relieve pain and suppress coughs.
The drug, which Time has called a “dirty cousin of morphine,” also contains a dangerous mix of alcohol, paint thinner, gasoline and lighter fluid. The mixture includes red phosphorus as well, a substance used in the striking pads of matchboxes. Iodine is another ingredient — one that often leaves addicts enveloped in a tell-tale heavy iodine odor that, as one Russian physician noted, can’t be washed out of clothing.
Krokodil can be easily concocted at home in about 30 minutes. Users inject krokodil wherever they find available veins on their body, from their head to their feet. Injecting the drug delivers a high quickly — in as little as five minutes. This is in contrast to the one to two hours it can take to get high from drugs in pill or capsule form.
This dangerous substance delivers a more potent high than heroin. However, the euphoric feeling doesn’t last as long, at anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. Addiction occurs quickly, catapulting users into a never-ending cycle that moves from cooking the drug to getting high to cooking the next batch. Users interviewed for news accounts have reported going for days without sleep as they binged on krokodil.
Anyone who has seen the sensational-sounding online headlines about this drug addiction may have written them off as attempts by websites to generate traffic: “Zombie apocalypse drug reaches U.S.” or “Krokodil –The drug that eats junkies.” However, headlines like these are not exaggerations. The drug gets its name from its effect on the skin and underlying tissue. It’s believed the damage is caused not by the psychoactive ingredient desomorphine, but rather the caustic substances used in the concoction. These chemicals destroy blood vessels and tissue. Unsanitary drug cooking and injection practices also likely play a role in the destruction.
After krokodil is injected, blood vessels burst and tissue surrounding the injection site dies. As a result, the skin takes on a greenish, scaly appearance that mimics that of a crocodile, or krokodil in Russian. The process leads to open, festering wounds and infections as the skin rots from the inside out, eventually causing gangrene. Those with an addiction to krokodil can be left with dead skin that peels away to reveal tissue and bone underneath. Many users experience blood poisoning. The damage addicts suffer typically requires intensive wound care or skin grafts. Amputations are common.
Over time, the drug’s acidity also dissolves porous bone, especially in the jawbone and teeth. The effect has been compared to “meth mouth,” which is the unsightly rotting of the gums and teeth often seen in methamphetamine addicts. Chronic krokodil abusers frequently lose their teeth.
The average life expectancy of a krokodil addict is estimated to be very short at only two to three years. However, even those who are able to overcome the addiction are left with lasting and devastating physical effects. Krokodil causes brain damage in chronic users, leaving them with speech impediments and impaired motor skills, often in the form of jerky movements. In fact, the disjointed movements combined with addicts’ skin and tissue injuries have caused some to deem krokodil the “zombie” drug.
Krokodil In The U.S.
According to a report published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, this homemade drug is believed to have first been used in Russia in 2003. For years, its use was confined largely to Russia and the surrounding countries that had been part of the Soviet Union. Experts estimate about 100,000 Russians have become addicted to krokodil and other illicit homemade drugs. By 2011, krokodil began moving into Germany and Norway. The ingredients are widely available, and users freely circulate recipes that make it easy to create batches on a home stove. It also costs a fraction of what users pay for heroin.
Currently, the U.S. incidents are being classified as possible cases; although the physical symptoms appear to be consistent with krokodil use, drug addiction experts have not been able to obtain samples of the drug, nor have they been able to get blood or urine samples that might confirm its use. Obtaining positive samples from addicts may be challenging because the body metabolizes the drug so quickly.
Because of the very serious side effects, treatment must start as soon as possible. Treating this addiction is a complex process, requiring a joint effort by physicians and addiction professionals. The obvious physical symptoms may require emergency care, making hospitalization necessary. As medical staff members try to stem the physical damage, a skilled addictions team will need to address the severe withdrawal symptoms.
Although the drug mimics the euphoric high of heroin, there are differences regarding withdrawal. Heroin’s physical withdrawal symptoms last about a week, while krokodil’s can draw out for as long as a month. Russian addiction experts say it causes such intense pain that it’s common to tranquilize patients during withdrawal. Addicts also experience seizures, fever, and vomiting.
Following withdrawal, a drug rehab team will start the addict on an intensive therapy program. Treatment will likely include extended inpatient rehab along with individual and group therapy. Long-term aftercare, including sober living, may also be part of the recovery plan. In addition, an addict might need physical or occupational therapy to address the physical aftermath of this addiction.
Krokodil addiction must be treated immediately by professional addiction treatment specialists. If you or someone you love is using this extremely dangerous substance, don’t wait to get help. Contact a drug addiction recovery center today.
Read More Russia’s Deadly Krokodil
Silk Road, the website that became an Amazon.com for online drug deals, reached its inglorious end. Visitors to Silk Road could buy and sell illegal drugs, illicit prescription drugs, weapons and ammunition or make contact with computer hackers. Ross William Ulbricht, who founded the site under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, had been pursued by the FBI for two years.
“Silk Road” Website Shut Down – Ross William Ulbricht AKA Dread Pirate Roberts Captured
Ulbricht was arrested and the site shut down on October 1. Authorities seized $3.6 million in the virtual money known as bitcoin. Ulbricht, 29, faces a list of felonies including conspiracy to traffic in narcotics, computer hacking, money laundering and solicitation of murder.
Silk Road was launched in 2011 and has served as an Internet clearinghouse for drug deals totaling around $1.2 billion. Ulbricht’s personal take home as middleman on those sales was reported to be $80 million.
Dread Pirate Roberts referred to a masked character in the movie and novel The Princess Bride who, it turned out, was not one man but a series of men, allowing the name to be passed on to the previous holder of the title to retire with his riches. Ulbrict is alleged to have sought out contract killers to assassinate people he disagreed with, posted an email address which contained his name in an online forum and alluded to the illegal operation on his personal LinkedIn account. All of which lead to his capture instead of retiring with his millions.
Ulbricht had everything going for him. He graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he was a physics major on a full scholarship. Later he became a graduate research assistant at Penn State University, earning his Master’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering and writing a thesis with the title “Growth of EuO Thin Films By Molecular Beam Epitaxy.” But after leaving Penn State he shifted his goals from physics to libertarian principles, viewing the Silk Road website’s forum for conducting illegal transactions as a model of economic theory that, according to his LinkedIn account, would “abolish the use of coercion and aggression against mankind.”
Selling Illegal Drugs To Teenagers Secretly Over Internet
The website and its users employed blocking software which protected identities on both ends from discovery by legal authorities. And he used a virtual currency, bitcoins, to pay for it all. The expertise behind the Silk Road and bitcoins may be admirable, but the application of that knowledge has been anything but.
Ulbricht has said that he is interested in peaceful Eastern religion and starting a family. But what Silk Road allowed was a haven for criminal activity, including the sale of illegal drugs to teenagers. The drugs were sold in secret over the Internet and then delivered by the U.S. postal service. Ulbricht tweeted about the irony, a sort of public thumbing of his nose. But authorities got the last laugh.
OxyContin is the brand name for a specific form of oxycodone, an opioid narcotic medication known for its potential to trigger problems with drug abuse or drug addiction. Because of the medication’s association with increased abuse and addiction risks, sale of all forms of oxycodone are strictly controlled under federal guidelines. However, according to a new investigative report by the Los Angeles Times, the manufacturer of OxyContin—a company called Purdue Pharma—has failed to report known instances of illicit or illegal prescriptions of the medication to authorities for more than 10 years.
After the report in The Times, two state senators in California have called on the maker of OxyContin to turn over the names of California physicians it suspects recklessly prescribed its pills to drug dealers and addicts.
Oxycodone is a synthetic substance made in pharmaceutical laboratories from a specific chemical found naturally in a plant called the opium poppy. When it interacts with nerve cells in the body’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), it reduces the body’s ability to feel pain. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists available forms of oxycodone that include liquids, concentrates, capsules and tablets. While some oxycodone-containing products are sold without additional active ingredients, other products also contain acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen. In addition to OxyContin, oxycodone-based medications include Percocet, Percodan and Endocet.
The same mechanisms that give oxycodone the ability to ease pain also give it the ability to alter normal function in the part of the brain that regulates pleasurable sensations. It is the intensity of the drug’s effects on the brain’s pleasure centers that accounts for its association with profound risks for abuse and addiction. Because of the potential for misuse of oxycodone, federal regulators have placed it on a list of officially controlled substances called Schedule II drugs. All substances on this list have clear usefulness as therapeutic medications, but also present enough risks to warrant strong restrictions on their use.
OxyContin comes in tablet form and was originally marketed as a safer, long-acting alternative to morphine, another opioid narcotic capable of reducing moderate or severe forms of pain. When the medication hit the market, its safe use was significantly undermined by its easy crushability. This crushability encouraged abusers to rapidly introduce OxyContin into their bloodstreams through IV injection or inhalation. In an effort to correct a widespread pattern of misuse, Purdue Pharma introduced a non-crushable form of the medication in 2009. Following the release of this new product, misuse of OxyContin dropped by almost 200 percent. However, significant numbers of people across the U.S. still use the medication illicitly or illegally.
In 2002, Purdue Pharma started tracking doctors across the U.S. suspected of knowingly prescribing OxyContin to people addicted to oxycodone or other narcotic or non-narcotic medications, as well as doctors suspected of selling their OxyContin supplies to drug dealers. As of 2013, the company had identified more than 1,800 physicians believed to be participating in these activities. However, Purdue Pharma has never made a concerted effort to release their list of suspects to any federal, state or local law enforcement agency, or to a medical body responsible for disciplining doctor misconduct. In fact, the company has sometimes made efforts to deflect attention away from purposeful, improper OxyContin prescribing by publicly linking the illegal availability of the medication to such things as robberies, theft of OxyContin by family members of legitimate users, and patients’ efforts to obtain the medication from multiple doctors.
Purdue Pharma only openly revealed the existence of its internal list of misprescribing physicians in June 2013. Because of the immense profitability of OxyContin, some investigators and public health officials have openly questioned the company’s motivations for not revealing its knowledge on the issue at any point in the last 10 years. Spokesmen for Purdue Pharma counter these criticisms by asserting that, while they have never released the names of all suspected doctors, they have separately given medical groups and law enforcement officials the names of 154 of the 1,800 physicians in their database. However, since no one outside the company has seen the full list of suspected misprescribers, there is no way to independently gauge the accuracy of these statements.
Some of the doctors under investigation for illegally prescribing or selling OxyContin have been involved in widespread distribution efforts that meet federal and state standards for drug dealing. For instance, one California physician was recently convicted of illegally selling over 1 million doses of the medication. Another doctor prescribed millions of dollars worth of OxyContin and other opioid narcotics to people known to have problems with drug addiction. Officials from Purdue Pharma state that they have no legal obligation to assist law enforcement or medical regulators in their efforts to control OxyContin’s availability.