Thursday, August 09, 2001

OxyContin use in Ky. doubled

Drug involved with 69 deaths across state

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — A new report says a drug found in OxyContin was present in 69 deaths over a period of 17 months in Kentucky.

        Problems with illegal use of the drug grew as the amount of OxyContin dispensed from Kentucky pharmacies, or to Kentucky residents, nearly doubled last year, the report said.

        The Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area's report said the Kentucky medical examiner's office identified the presence of oxycodone — the ingredient in OxyContin — in 69 deaths between January 2000 and May 2001. In 36 of those deaths, toxic levels of oxycodone were identified, according to the report.

        Most of the abuse of the painkiller has been in eastern Kentucky and other Appalachian areas.

        Oxycodone is used in drugs besides OxyContin, and abusers often use OxyContin along with alcohol or other drugs. But abuse of OxyContin has escalated the last two or three years partly because it has a pure dose of oxycodone, instead of being mixed with less powerful painkillers, as other types of pills such as Tylox are.

        The drug is used by people with chronic pain, but widespread abuse has led to overdoses, thefts and pharmacy robberies.

        The report said that between January 2000 and June 30, people seeking OxyContin robbed or burglarized 69 pharmacies in Kentucky — far more than in other surrounding Appalachian areas.

        However, West Virginia ranked much higher in consumption of OxyContin last year; the amount distributed was 118 percent higher than the national average, the report said. In Kentucky, the consumption rate was nearly 53 percent above the national average.

        Altogether, there were 9.3 million OxyContin pills dispensed from Kentucky pharmacies, or to Kentucky residents, in 2000 — up from 4.8 million pills in 1999. That doesn't count pills Kentucky residents got at pharmacies outside the state, the report said.

        Police say the more OxyContin is dispensed, the greater the chance for it to be diverted for illegal use. The main way OxyContin gets diverted for illegal sale is through “doctor shoppers” who visit several physicians, often complaining of fake pain, to get multiple prescriptions, according to the report.

        Some Kentucky residents cross the border to get drugs and avoid a state prescription-tracking system.


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