“Public Health Catastrophe” Predicted in Canada over OxyContin Withdrawal

“Public Health Catastrophe” Predicted in Canada over OxyContin Withdrawal

Canadian police, public health officials and native Indian tribes are bracing for potential problems next month when the powerful painkiller OxyContin is withdrawn from the market. Purdue Pharma Canada will stop manufacturing the drug in Canada and will replace it with a new “safer” formulation called OxyNEO on March 1st.

OxyContin was developed to treat acute and chronic pain, but has become one of the most widely abused drugs on the planet. It is known as “hillbilly heroin” because of its popularity in remote rural areas, such as Canada’s far north. Addiction to OxyContin and other opioid painkillers is blamed for hundreds of deaths annually in Canada, where there is a widespread black market for OxyContin and abuse of the drug is common among native Indians. As many as half the adults and youths in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities in northern Ontario are addicted to OxyContin, according to Benedikt Fischer of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Addictions and Mental Health.

“Without OxyContin available, individuals will experience withdrawal,” Fischer warned in a statement for NAN. “A public health catastrophe is imminent, as there are thousands of addicted individuals with rapidly shrinking supplies – likely leading to massive increases in black market prices, use of other drugs, needle use and sharing, and crime.”

OxyContin tablets crushed into powder for snorting.

When addicts crush Oxycontin, then inject or inhale it, the painkiller produces a “heroin-like euphoria.” Once it is replaced by OxyNEO, Fischer is worried addicts will turn to more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin. OxyNEO is harder to crush for snorting or injecting.

Health care services in Canada were already taking steps to limit the use of OxyContin. Access to the painkiller is restricted in Manitoba and Newfoundland, and Ontario has dropped funding for OxyContin prescriptions from its Drug Benefit Program.

Last week the country’s national health service, Health Canada, said it would remove OxyContin from the list of drugs available through its Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, which provides health care to people without private insurance. Only those currently prescribed OxyContin will be switched to OxyNEO. A Health Canada advisory committee has concluded there is no evidence OxyContin is more effective than other opioids and that it may be more dangerous.

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. jessica at 7:49 pm

    I agree with some of this thread. I absulutely agree that these people addicted to oxy will end up using haroin, because its the closest thing to oxy. And the crime rate is going to go up because people are going to be real haroin addicts instead of pill addicts. They need to get it some how, and some people will do allmost anything, even crime. Well, look at Vancouver for example. Unfortunately the gouverment can not force people to stop being addicts! All the gouverment is doing is forcing these addicts to move on to other drugs that are far more dangerous! And its very unfortunate that people with chronic pain depend on this to have a normal life, and now its taken from them. I think all the gouverment has done is put these people into a country wide withdrawl, and they are not at all prepared for any of it, and i dont think that the gouverment really cares. I think that doctors should have been more strict with the distribution of oxy instead of it being taken off of the market completely! And now the people that legitimately really needed this medication, dont have it. Unless this oxyneo helps them in the same way.