Opana Abuse Overtakes Oxy

By McCarton Ackerman 07/11/12

The crushable pill has replaced OxyContin as the most abused prescription painkiller in the US.

Opana crushes the competition. Photo via

Just when drug enforcement officials were starting to get a handle on the US scourge of OxyContin abuse, along comes another major threat. Opana—which first became "small town America's new favorite drug" earlier this year—has now replaced OxyContin as the most widely abused prescription painkiller in the country, with several states reporting huge spikes in use of the drug. The main difference is that while OxyContin pills have become impossible to crush since 2010, there are still plenty of crushable Opana ER pills on the market, since the crush-resistant version of Opana didn't get approved until late last year. Opana users are willing to shell out big bucks for the pills as well—when a national shortage of the drug took hold earlier this year due to a production snafu, the price in Louisville, KY, soared from $65 for a 40 mg pill to $185.

"When OxyContin changed, the drug abusers looked for a different thing. Opana emerged immediately," says Sgt. Jerry Goodin of the Indiana State Police. "Seems like every time we get a handle on something, another evil pops its head up." Kentucky is reporting that oxymorphone, the primary ingredient in Opana, was present in 23% of overdose victims in 2011, while medicaid data in Nassau County, NY, showed a 45% increase in prescriptions for Opana during the first six months of the year. However, many people believe that when the harder-to-abuse Opana dominates the drug market, addicts will simply turn to a more familiar name to satisfy their craving: "They will adapt the same way drug traffickers or criminals will adapt to a new law. They are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction," says DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs of the Office of Diversion Control. "When they either can't get those particular pharmaceuticals or can't afford them, they now gravitate to heroin."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.