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Prescription painkillers now more common than heroin as street drugs

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November 27 2006
by Jerome Douglas

(NewsTarget) Hard recreation drugs are being passed up many drug abusers in favor of prescription narcotics like morphine and OxyContin, according to a new study across seven Canadian cities.

A recent research report states that heroin continues to be the number-one illegal drug across cities such as Vancouver and Montreal, but cities such as Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City and Fredericton continue to witness drug abuse from prescription opioids and other prescribed drugs.

The lead author of the report -- Benedikt Fischer -- even stated that the switch to highly addictive prescription narcotics among street users likely represents just the tip of the iceberg. Fischer went on to state that if the general public's use of these prescription drugs were factored in, the numbers would be much higher than the study indicates.

Fischer said "We have to and will do research in Canada as to what is the shape and size of the iceberg below the tip that we've been showing with our little paper … there are indications that it might be quite enormous. But its potential in terms of size and implications is of a nature that we better look at it and start thinking about what do we really need to do about it."

Fischer's study was published in Tuesday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal and showed that heroin in 2005 wasn't even a factor among injection drug abusers in Fredericton -- and it was barely noticeable in Edmonton and Quebec City. Just over a year later, the picture has changed drastically.

"This study for the first time systematically documents this for street-drug-use populations across Canada," Fischer said of his research. Fischer went on to state that the findings have several implications for Canada's health-care system.

Fischer pointed out that while heroin is produced in countries like Afghanistan, and typically imported and distributed by organized crime organizations, currently abused prescribed drugs like opioids come directly or indirectly from a doctor's office, in addition to being produced legitimately by pharmaceutical companies.

The research concluded that the growing problem of opioid abuse demands that the health-care system find an effective way to treat those addicted to prescription drugs, perhaps with a maintenance program similar to those for heroin addicts.


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