Turns Out Tamper-Resistant Painkillers Aren’t Helping


Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic.

Nearly 5 million Americans, or 1.9 percent of the population, use pain relievers – or opioids – for non-medical purposes, according to a 2012 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of this segment, many have zeroed in on extended-release opioids over instant-release drugs since they contain more of the active ingredient and can be altered to release the pain killer all at once. As a result, abusers receive a much faster “high.”

Trying to Prevent Addiction and Overdose

In an effort to prevent addiction and overdose of these pain relievers, companies have recently developed tamper-resistant drugs, which are more difficult to crush, snort or inject. One such example is Oxecta, an immediate release oxycodone tablet that uses a technology designed to trap the oxycondone inside a viscous gelatinous mixture when dissolved to inject intravenously. Another is the Oxycontin controlled-release tablets, a formula that when crushed or dissolved by an abuser, will then transform into a gel.

But do these really work in deterring those from prescription drug abuse?

The Truth About Tamper-Resistant Pills

A recent commentary in Canadian Medical Association Journal doesn’t seem to think so, arguing that tamper-resistant formulations of drugs do not solve the problems of opioid addiction and overdose.

In addition to increasing evidence that the overall number of deaths had not decreased, it was found that only a small portion of drug abusers were found to be affected by these built-in deterrents. Most would simply just avoid these drugs all together and turn to other types of opioids, such as heroin – an unintended consequence of this technology.

“Regulations requiring tamper resistance represent an expensive, technical approach that is influenced by pharmaceutical interests and cannot solve the opioid crisis. An evidence-based, multifaceted strategy is needed — one that has real potential to curb opioid-related harms at a population level,” the authors conclude.

Additional Reading: Mars vs. Venus: How Does Gender Affect Prescription Drugs?

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