The Movement to Ban Oxycontin

By Dirk Hanson 06/16/11

“It is time for the FDA to remove the newest substitute for heroin, OxyContin, from the marketplace," says the petition.

“Ban Oxycontin” Bracelets.
Photo via prescriptionaddictionradio

It’s a small movement, and unlikely ever to gain serious traction, but the protest is symptomatic of the financial and emotional strain that runaway prescription painkiller abuse is bringing to bear on communities large and small.

“It is time for the FDA to remove the newest substitute for heroin, OxyContin, from the marketplace," says the petition, which is sponsored by Novus Medical Detox Centers and “OxyContin is molecularly almost identical to and acts in the body in the same manner as heroin,” says the petition’s website. “Heroin began as a widely promoted, legal drug in the United States that was similarly touted as having few addiction risks. The Bayer Company stopped manufacturing it in 1913 and our forefathers took dramatic action against its damaging effects almost 100 years ago. OxyContin is available at any pharmacy, and has become the preferred substitute for heroin on our streets with many tens of thousands now addicted.”

We presume the idea was taken from a bill introduced in the U.S. House in 2005, which would have provided for “the withdrawal of the drug OxyContin from the commercial market.” Needless to say, it didn’t pass. The past few years have also seen sporadic street protests against Oxy in Florida neighborhoods rife with pain clinics.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of the “ban oxy” movement is that back in 2001, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth was all for it.

While the sentiment is understandable, here’s why we think banning OxyContin is a bad idea: As the South-Florida Sun Sentinel put it, “When used legally as prescribed, it is extremely effective at providing time-released, 24-hour relief from extreme, chronic pain caused by major surgery, cancer, or degenerative bone or nerve diseases…. tens of thousands of Floridians who now rely on OxyContin to combat pain would be denied its enormous, life-changing benefits. The state isn't considering banning drugs like Xanax or Valium, also effective but widely abused. So a ban on OxyContin isn't justified.”

Nonsense, say the people behind the current “Petition to Ban OxyContin.” Petitioners are merely “asking the FDA to create a compassionate program to be put in place for the people who are presently taking OxyContin with a realistic time frame that will lead to the complete withdrawal of OxyContin. The compassion we feel for those in pain can be achieved without OxyContin.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]