OxyContin Use on the Rise; Methamphetamine Still Drug of Choice in Region 8

October 20, 2003 -- Posted at 7:30pm

JONESBORO, AR - If you hadn't heard of it before, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has made many more of us familiar with the drug OxyContin.

It's a derivative of the immediate-release drug oxycodone hydrochloride. OxyContin is a 12-hour, time-released pain killer which came onto the market 7 years ago.

Ken Gibson, Jonesboro pharmacist, said, "You crush it, chew it or crush it. All of the time release mechanisms are gone, and you get the immediate full rush of the medication."

"I know a good many folks what will start to take these agents as they're intended to that will become dependent. Other folks are more inclined to use them to get the mood swing, to get the drug effect," added Michael Teague, a substance abuse specialist in Jonesboro.

Both men agree that OxyContin is a great medication for those patients who are in severe pain, when they use it properly.

Addictions can become expensive, if patients can't persuade their physician to write a prescription. A consumer in Jonesboro purchasing an 80 milligram dosage when 1 pill is taken twice daily would pay $551.89. That high street value is what likely prompted 2 men to rob pharmacies across the nation's mid-section, including Stone's Pharmacy in Jonesboro. During the robbery on June 20, 2003, the staff was held at gunpoint and wrapped in duct tape. The men took $4,928.00 worth of narcotics and cash.

No one was hurt in the robbery, but as a result of it, the owner of Stone's Pharmacy installed surveillance equipment and an alarm system.

Ken Gibson explained, "Abuse potential (of OxyContin) has always been there. Yes, it's on the rise, and we're gonna have to keep a crackdown on who gets it."

Members of 2nd Judicial Drug Task Force haven't made any arrests for OxyContin trafficking. Jonesboro Police Lieutenant Rick Elliott added that the times investigators have come across the painkiller, it has been prescribed to the user. However, he suspects there's a high amount of prescription fraud relating to OxyContin.