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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Opana is latest drug to be abused
Illegal use of narcotic is on the rise locally

Thursday, July 14, 2011

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Add opana to the growing list of the most sought-after prescription drugs among prescription drug abusers.

Illegal use of the drug is "seen quite a bit" by vice investigators in Henry County, according to Sheriff's Sgt. Eric Winn.

Opana is a Schedule II narcotic, similar to heroin, morphine and oxycodone, and it also is known as oxymorphone, according to Winn.

Opana generally is administered in a time-release pill form to treat moderate to severe pain, Winn said. It is among a group of narcotic pain relievers available in 5-, 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-milligram doses, Winn said.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says the drug, which has been on the market about five years, has short-lived euphoric effects, according to The Associated Press. Because it requires more doses to maintain a stable high, a serious habit can form rather quickly, the AP reported.

The pill is intended to be taken orally, but some people crush the pill and snort it, Winn said. Either can have devastating effects.

"The problem is that opana, like a lot of other pain medications, is time-released. When the pills are crushed" the person taking them gets the entire dose at one time, Winn said. "And that can be lethal," he added.

Also, those who typically use the drug illegally are not screened or followed by a physician to determine the impact of the drug on their system, any drug allergies, interactions and the like, he said. Winn said taking the pills orally without medical supervision also can prove fatal.

Unfortunately, the prescription medicine is gaining popularity among illicit drug abusers, Winn said, cautioning that "any drugs people get off the street can be lethal."�

The majority of the prescription drug problem in Henry County stems from the illegal use of hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, oxycontin and fentanyl patches, Winn said.

The same holds true in Patrick County, according to Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith, who said 21 of the 48 people indicted in the last round of indictments were charged with the illegal distribution of prescribed narcotics, including opana.

"It is powerful stuff. It's a bad deal," he said, and added that his vice officers also are finding that abusers crush the pills.

"I do think use of opana is a growing trend, and unfortunately, I think it will get worse," Smith said. "These medications are as dangerous as illegal narcotics like cocaine and methamphetamine. They should only be used under strict guidelines of a physician."�

So far, vice investigators in Martinsville have not had any cases involving the use of opana, according to city police Chief Mike Rogers, who added that likely will change.


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