New Painkiller Zohydro: What Parents And Patients Need To Know

    February 27, 2014
    Ashley Olds
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Painkiller junkies who’ve diligently done research are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a pill called Zohydro.

Meanwhile, a well-meaning coalition of health professionals is also anticipating – the imminent demise of such existing abusers and legitimate patients alike. They are trying their hardest to prevent such tragedy from unfolding right up until the last minute, as the drug is set to be released as soon as March.

“In the midst of a severe drug epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid,” the aforementioned coalition of healthcare, consumer, and addiction treatment professionals wrote to FDA. They added, “Too many people have already become addicted to similar opioid medications, and too many lives have been lost.”

“This could be the next OxyContin,” a petition on Change.org predicts, as they beseech the FDA to reconsider release of this drug.

Indeed, in the 90’s, the powerful opiate painkiller called Oxycontin became a popular pill for doctors to push. Patients became quickly addicted, having little or no knowledge about just how addictive it was until it was too late. There were numerous overdose related deaths following the release of that drug – which have only risen since.

Patients may not have been as aware in the past about potential dangers of painkillers, but efforts have been made in the past couple of decades to educate the public. Likewise, if any new drug (with potentially detrimental effects) hits the market, patients have a right to know the whole story before their doctor says something like, “If you’re still in pain, let’s try the narcotic rotation method…. I’m going to switch you from your Oxycontin to this new drug called Zohydro” (a suggestion that conveniently helps him pay off that sports car you limped past on your way in).

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are people in chronic relentless pain who absolutely rely on their pharmaceuticals to get through the excruciating agony that comes with everything from herniated discs to cancer. Trust me, I know. However, this group of the population certainly doesn’t account for the staggering statistics the CDC cites when it comes to narcotic over-prescription, prescription abuse, and overdose deaths.

Specifically, the CDC indicates “there is currently a growing, deadly epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers—also called opioid pain relievers,” adding that the “ rise in overdose deaths in the US parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers.”

In 2008 alone, there were 14,800 deaths attributable to these sorts of drugs (more than cocaine and heroin combined), and caused 475,000 abuse-related emergency room visits the next year – a stat that was half that amount just five years before.

As far as recent abuse stats go, more than 12 million people admitted in 2010 to taking the drug just for fun (or perhaps to attempt redressing an addiction associated intrinsic void) and that they obtained it without a prescription for any kind of physical infirmity.

Now, parents, this part is for you.

Back when Oxycontin was released, abusers quickly realized that crushing the pill and insufflating it (that’s just a fancy way of saying they snort it up their nose holes) could double the high. Veteran addicts and kids pill-pilfering from their parents’ post-operation supply similarly fell prey to this – until the latter group grew up to be the former. In more recent years, efforts have been made by drug companies to reformulate Oxycontin and drugs like it to make it tamper proof (so they couldn’t be taken any way but orally).

Zohydro, however, is not tamper proof.

“It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Pysicians for Responsibilbe Opioid Prescribing, warns before adding: “It will kill people as soon as it’s released.”

Zohydro also packs a five-point punch of potency, compared to its predecessors: “You’re talking about a drug that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of five times more potent than what we’re dealing with now,” said Dr. Stephen Anderson, a Washington emergency room physician. He adds, “I’m five times more concerned, solely based on potency.”

I’m not here to give a speech or spread unwarranted fear. For some well-read and responsible patients, this drug may be a viable option. But as someone who’s seen firsthand the horrors of prescription abuse and addiction, I feel like there is indeed some warranted level of fear when it comes to heavy duty painkillers – for everyone.

There are patients who won’t realize how easy it is to overdose.

There are parents who won’t realize how easy it is for their kids to obtain it.

And there are doctors whose patients will be abusing it right under their noses (pardon the pun).

While this drug may end up being the magic bullet for some, a good suggestion might be doing heaps of research (as you always should) before adding this to your prescription collection and moving from the pharmaceutical frying pan to the fire.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the disease of addiction, help is available.

Never give up.

Image via Youtube

  • bara

    I’m an old ER nurse. When I had shoulder surgery I was given Oxy. I took it twice and didn’t like the way it made me feel. Eventually I tossed it out (crushed, mixed with sulfuric acid and placed in closed container). I use hydrocodone 10 mg now (severe arthritis and joint disease). I take anywhere from 0-2 pills a day. I’m very conscious about how many I take. I also may or may not augment it with aspirin.
    These drugs can kill and I’ve seen it happen, frequently, and often with first time users.

  • barbie

    I’ve worked in healthcare and found the extended relief (ER) medication worked well for people who have trouble with drug induced malaise. With dosing being every 12 hours,this makes keeping track simple. Regularly prescribed narcs given every 4 to 6 hours keeps chronic users tied to the bottle with an addictive ritual. When people are prescribed for chronic pain,they tend to forget when their last dose was taken. Understandable considering they are under the influence 24/7. What’s even more helpful is bubble packing allowing the patient to keep easy count. One day possibly, people will need an electronic dispenser ,that will only dispense at timed intervals. .

  • lee roy

    When a person is experiencing constant, nagging , pain , i.e. , lupus , back pain , debilitating cancer pain just to name a few,, something is needed to relieve this stronger than over he counter drugs. My experience has been that when drs. tell you that not much pain is to be experienced , the largest majority of them have never had much pain. The ones that actually need these drugs should not be punished because of abusers . Law enforcement should do their job themselves instead of denying relief to patients by intimidating health care providers or outlawing painkillers.And I just wonder how many journalists writing about this have had any significant amount of pain.I mean , you begin your article with “painkiller junkies”?

    • Guest

      I have lived in constant nagging back/hip pain for the past 40 years. I would welcome a controlled release version of this, as I currently take Norco and it’s a constant battle of precise dosing to keep the pain levels down. If you wait until the pain is out of control, it is very difficult to get it under wraps again. I hate taking anything for this pain, but have no choice. Both of my hips are replaced and as a result of many years of limping while waiting for hip replacements, my back is ruined. I also have chronic bursitis in both hips, so even though they have been replaced, I can not lay on either side or on my back to sleep. The area I live in has recently “cracked down” again, due to others who abuse narcotic pain meds. Now all the Drs. are afraid to write rx’s for any pain meds. I am glad to hear about the changes made to oxycontin and I believe they should have used the same thing in this new medication, so the “druggies” can’t “get high”. I have never understood the concept of “getting high on pain meds”, if I need a second dose, I have to be careful or it will make me sick, then I have two problems. I am sick and in pain. I am very tired of others who ruin this for those of us who really need them. As far as I know, I have two refills left and then they are cutting me off. I asked my Dr. why he changed his mind about prescribing this for me and he said “because the government is up my ass and I have to carry around a computer and I hate it”. Does he know how much I hate it??? Make necessary changes and let us legitimate pain patients have this new drug. Five times stronger when in continued release form would not kill me. I

    • Author

      Thanks for your comment, Lee Roy.

      1. Yes, I’ve a herniated disc and suffer pain daily. Painkillers made it worse and were not the
      answer for me. They are for some. This is not the point.

      2. “Junkie” is a colloquial reference to addicts needing help. They’re
      disruptive to society because they suffer inner turmoil, can’t cope with
      reality, and try to fix that with endless drug use. Anyone can become
      dependent. Not everyone who does is an addict. The former can stop. The
      latter cannot. The bottom tweet is meant
      to lead such sufferers to help. That way, they can recover as productive

      members of society instead of sharing abuse tips on bluelight.

      3. Thank you for sharing. I apologize if you felt offended but I invite
      you to read the whole article. I’ve said painkillers are needed for
      many, that this may be a “viable” drug for some, but unassuming parents and patients should be wary. If
      one parent gets educated by the videos or words here and can stop a
      tragedy in its tracks, this will have been worth it.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Have a beautiful day!


  • charlotte

    I agree with the fact that pain meds have the potential to be abused. Having said that it is near impossible to get pain medication following surgery or even after an accident. Everyone now seems to looked at as a “druggie” even if they aren’t. It is like everything else the people suffering with pain even for the short term have to do without because some idiots abused pain medication.