Pills are not the Problem (or the Answer)

by The Discovering Alcoholic on September 22, 2009

Original pic by Son of Groucho under creative commons license now at The Discovering Alcoholic

They gobbled, snorted, and injected the pills- close to 5 million Americans took (abused) pain killers for non-medical reasons last year. Drug companies like King Pharmaceuticals of Bristol, Tennessee are responding to this wide spread problem by developing abuse-deterrent opioid pain killers like Embeda that actually deactivates when tampered with or crushed.

Some pills under development are rubberlike and harder to crush. Others contain ingredients that cause unpleasant reactions in the body, like flushing or itching, if the pill is adulterated. Taking a cue from exploding ink packets that can render stolen money unusable, some pills have an outer opioid layer and an inner core that, if tampered with, releases a drug that counters the high of the pain reliever. ~ New York Times

When it comes down to it though the pills are not the problem, it’s the reason we are taking them. The pervasive abuse does not stem from a sudden surge in chronic pain, but instead a mass misperception that opioids are fun and make a great chaser for alcohol and other recreational drugs. A kid, dad, or grandmother that wouldn’t dream of cooking down and injecting black tar heroin from a dealer has absolutely no fear of crushing up a pain pill and snorting it because it was prescribed by a doctor, yet the danger of overdose and addiction are the same.

Integrated deterrents are certainly a good idea, but advocacy and education to change the public’s perception about why and how to take pain killers should be a priority.

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