OxyContin's deadly side effects

Health professionals warn Western Michigan University students about the dangers of a new drug that's being misused by people who want to make a profit and people looking for a high.
OxyContin is a narcotic that treats moderate to severe pain; when used incorrectly, it can cause side effects including death.

Dan Grasseschi, a pharmacist at Oakwood Plaza Pharmacy, said that it is designed for people who experience chronic and severe pain.

"Cancer patients use it for pain control," Grasseschi said.

Bill Green, a pharmacist at Sindecuse Health Center, said people who don't have a prescription for OxyContin should not use the drug because it can cause harm and it is illegal.

"You're not supposed to have that much medicine in your bloodstream at one time," Green said.

According to Green, OxyContin has a time release mechanism that is formulated to release medicine over 12 hours. He said patients get a little now, and a little later.

On the other hand, Green said abusers crush and snort OxyContin, getting the medicine immediately, which is when the drug becomes dangerous.

Grasseschi said that the euphoric high experience is appealing to abusers.

"Many narcotics are used as street drugs," Green said. "People are taking (OxyContin) to get high or comfort. People tend to abuse narcotics such as Vicodin, Percodan, Percocet and Tylox. There's a different high from narcotics than from stimulants."

Green said these drugs can be severely constipating, and a bowel regimen is needed even with occasional use.

Grasseschi said that drugs like these are often available on the street due to forged and stolen prescriptions as well as through pharmacy robberies.

According to an online News 3 report, the drug has been the target of many pharmacy robberies including a recent robbery at a Portage Walgreens pharmacy on Jan. 9. According to WWMTNews 3, OxyContin is being referred to as the "new heroin" and it is one of the most abused drugs in the West Michigan area.

The short-term dangers of using OxyContin include overdose, which can cause a person to stop breathing. Long-term dangers of the drug are addiction and liver dysfunction.

"Anyone who uses it chronically should see a doctor for liver treatment, but illegal users generally don't have that access," Green said.

Still, Green advises students not to take OxyContin or any other prescription drugs that's not for them.

"If it wasn't prescribed for you, it shouldn't be taken by you," Green said.

Lauren Demember, freshman majoring in pre-med, said she has never heard of OxyContin.

"I don't associate myself with that kind of thing, but it doesn't mean I'm safe from it," Demember said.

Demember said she would help a friend with an addiction through intervention, and inform them that they could die from a potential overdose.

Alex Hathaway, junior majoring in engineering, said the illegal use of drugs like OxyContin would be hard to terminate.

"I don't really think it can be stopped," Hathaway said. "There will always be people who want to obtain drugs, and there will always be people who want to sell, because people will always get prescriptions and be able to sell to stoners and get a profit."

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