The Criminal Side of Online Drug Markets

While some may not be opposed to buying a fake Gucci purse or cubic zirconium earrings, buying fake medications unawares is a far more dangerous matter. Criminals have turned to online marketing to sell fraudulent medications and those counterfeit drugs could prove life-threatening in a number of ways.

More and more Websites are popping up which claim to sell prescription medications without having to provide the doctor-signed prescription. The problem is global with world-wide sales of false medications exceeding $75 billion dollars.

The vast majority of the medications which may be purchased through these false vendors do not even contain the key active ingredient being advertised. Other times, the concentrations of the ingredient vary from bottle to bottle or even pill to pill. In some cases, pills are concocted with fillers like boric acid, floor polish, shoe polish, arsenic, nickel, lead paint even brick/chalk dust. In any case, people who take these fake medicines put themselves at tremendous risk.

People who think they are saving money by avoiding a doctor visit are actually taking a terrible health risk by purchasing these counterfeit online medicines. Even if the drugs simply lack the active ingredient, the person who needs that medication, needs that ingredient. In cases where the medicines contain toxic substances, taking medication could prove life-threatening.

Authorities around the globe are beginning to enact stiffer penalties as the problem of counterfeit drug markets continues to escalate. Britain suffered nine drug recalls in just the past three years due to counterfeit medications which wound up at pharmacies and wholesale suppliers. A study revealed that among 96 British Websites selling prescription painkillers, right over 75 percent sold the medications without a prescription. The U.S. is facing similar challenges with 156 sites offering prescription medications for sale and 85 percent of sales never requiring that a prescription be presented.

Suboxone as One of Few Outpatient Medications Prescribed for Painkiller Addiction

Addiction to opiate painkillers affects millions of people annually, running the gamut from patients in their teens to the elderly, and from celebrities to typical American families who suffer the consequences of a loved one’s addiction. Typically, recovery requires medical supervision and a combination of medications and counseling.

One outpatient medical treatment for opiate addiction is Suboxone, known generically as buprenorphine and naloxone. The drug has been used for opiate-based painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. The drug has also been used to treat patients who become addicted to methadone, another medically-prescribed medication for curbing cravings and helping patients overcome prescription painkiller addictions.

Suboxone may help patients work through opiate addiction because it lessens their withdrawal symptoms as they begin their recovery. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be severe and painful, requiring hospitalization. In the beginning stages, the patient can become aggressive, overly anxious, unable to sleep and perspire excessively. As withdrawal progresses, many patients suffer from severe abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, bouts of nausea and vomiting.

Like methadone, Suboxone is believed to be linked to dependence or addiction, if used over time. The medication is only available with a doctor’s prescription and supervision, and can be taken in pill form or a film placed on the tongue that dissolves rapidly. These forms of Suboxone can be used interchangeably under a doctor’s supervision.

If a patient stops using Suboxone too rapidly, withdrawal symptoms can occur, and doctors are asked to slowly taper off a patient’s usage as they begin to stop using the drug. Like many medications for opiate addiction, patients are advised to complete a hospital or center-based medical detoxification to allow the severe opiate withdrawal symptoms to subside before using Suboxone, which is best suited for moderate withdrawal symptoms.

While Suboxone and similar drugs can be helpful in curbing recovering addicts’ cravings and urges for prescription painkillers on a physical level, the drug isn’t considered a stand-alone solution. Counseling, group therapy and psychological treatments are needed for most patients, often times in combination with their families. A willingness to share their recovery successes and challenges with others can also be very powerful.

For people who also use alcohol, Suboxone can cause significant dizziness and drowsiness. It can also cause a dangerous interaction with other medications for insomnia, depression, or for treating pain, so physicians should carefully review a patient’s list of medications before prescribing Suboxone.

It is believed that more than nine million people in the U.S. have abused, or are abusing, prescription pain medications. Medical treatments like Suboxone can be part of the recovery process, but a team-based and multi-level approach to ending prescription drug addiction is believed to be the most successful.

Drug Addiction is a Competitive Market

A new treatment may soon be available for those suffering from drug dependency.

BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI)’s buprenorphine was featured in an article indicating that the company may have a product available to upstage its competitor, Suboxone, when it comes to drug therapy.

Buprenorphine will be another option for addicts to use to kick their habit. Currently, a widely used treatment is methadone, which works, but there are many side effects associated with this drug. Plus, patients can also develop an addiction to the treatment, so while they’re being treated for one addiction, they may end up developing another one.

BDSI’s drug would be placed on the inside of your cheek. Due to this type of administration, it would take less medication to be effective. Buprenorphine is set to undergo additional studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) later this year and has the potential to generate more than $300 million in sales once it reaches final approval.

Big money for these drug companies hopefully means big treatments for those fighting addiction. With so many companies focusing on manufacturing products whose sole purpose is to combat drug dependency and have the profits they do goes to show the incredible addiction problem that exists in this country and around the world.

Money that is generated from the drug companies could be used to educate people on the severe dangers of drug and the addictions that come with it. That money could also be used to properly educate medical professionals on the severity of over-prescribing pain pills to their patients.

Enabling Addicts Takes Away Their Motivation to Get Better

Wanting to help someone is usually considered a good endeavor. Not so when it comes to addiction. Parents who offer support, either financial or otherwise, to children struggling with substance abuse issues are actually serving to perpetuate the problem.
It can be extremely difficult for parents to say no to their children, especially when they see them suffering. It may seem that “helping them out” with food, money for rent, or transportation is the best thing to do so they don’t turn to crime or end up on the streets.

The pain of seeing your baby go through withdrawals might also be enough to overshadow the impact of aiding negative behavior. Enabling, however, is extremely destructive, and if left to continue, could prevent your child from seeking the help he so desperately needs, or worse – send him to an early grave.

Instead of enabling and reinforcing a decrepit state, parents need to empower their children to get better. Most addicts would not be able to continue in their addiction without resources provided by loved ones. By cutting them off, parents are essentially removing a source that allows the addict to continue down a path of destruction.

Many times enablers are co-dependent, meaning they get a feeling of being useful or important when supplying the addict with resources. It may help them feel in control when everything else around them is falling apart. But, being the rescuer does little to motivate addicts to seek the help they need.

How do you know if you are an enabler? If you turn a blind eye to bad behavior, blame your loved one’s addiction on other people or things, or help out because you are afraid of confrontation or the possibility that your loved one might abandon you, it may be time to seek professional assistance.

Abuse of Opiate Addiction Recovery Drug Suboxone Believed Rapidly Increasing

A trusted prescription treatment for opiate addiction, Suboxone, is now prompting fears that the drug itself is addictive and becoming widely abused.

Some addiction experts say the abuse of Suboxone, commonly prescribed to people battling opioid painkiller additions, has reached epidemic levels. The rise in abuse of Suboxone also has professionals worried that the problem could interfere with patients who are using the drug correctly and for its planned purpose.

The trend is especially frustrating to Ronni Katz, Portland Public Health Division, and others in her profession. Katz says they were told by pharmaceutical companies that Suboxone didn’t have addictive properties. Part of the rise in abuse of Suboxone is its accessibility, as compared to drugs like Methadone that some prescription painkiller addicts use for treatments. Suboxone can be filled with a doctor’s order at a pharmacy for a month supply, rather than in a one-day Methadone dose at a specialized drug rehab clinic. Additionally, many doctors may be prescribing Suboxone without knowing that the drug is becoming widely abused.

Katz works with a substance abuse program and helps guide a program to prevent overdoses from opiate drugs. She said in an interview with the Portland Daily Sun that Suboxone has radically improved some patients’ lives as they work toward opiate addiction recovery, but is now showing up repeatedly as an abused street drug.

Katz is urging for more educational campaigns geared at doctors so that they will understand the potential for Suboxone abuse, and is also involved in community groups to help women and mothers recover from opiate addiction. Helping people reach a state of physical health, she says, is the first priority before steps for recovery are addressed.

Opioid Painkillers May Actually Increase Chronic Pain

A new study has found that repeated use of narcotic painkillers can actually increase chronic pain, instead of alleviating it. Opioid-induced hyperalgesia is associated with the continued use of opioids such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone. People taking these drugs on a long-term basis can become increasingly sensitive to noxious stimuli, even after a painful response to stimuli that was previous non-noxious. Some animal studies have shown that this can occur after one high dose of opioids.

Long-term use of opioids for chronic pain conditions can also increase people’s sensitivity to certain types of pain, called hyperalgesia. Researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia discovered that hyperalgesia can develop in people who abuse methadone. For this reason, the researchers say that people may need to be weaned off of opioids completely, in a medically monitored way. For example, people taking opioids for migraine headaches could actually be increasing their pain by taking the opioids.

David Clark, MD, of the Palo Alto VA Health Care System in California, said that this study is important because it shows that patients with chronic pain who use opioids are equally at risk for this sensitization as addicts and drug abusers. He said that chronic use of opioids seems to sensitize patients to pain, suggesting factors that could limit the clinical use of using opioids for chronic pain control, as well as add to problems in people being treated for addiction.

Dr. Stephen F. Grinstead of Behavioral Health Central writes the the growing amount of people who are undergoing chronic pain management need safe, effective pain relief, which is leading to research for developing new treatment modalities. Because some patients don’t do well with opioid therapy alone, methods involving non-opioid and non-pharmacological treatment should be explored.

Source: MedScape Today, Janis Kelly, Long-Term Opioid Use May Increase Sensitivity to Pain

Deaths from Methadone Increasing

In 2006, 17-year-old Tim Zigler came home one evening and quickly went to bed. The next morning, his father found him unconscious and barely breathing. He died before an ambulance arrived.

The Spokane, Washington teenager had taken methadone that previous night before coming home, said his father, Ken Zigler. “Tim didn’t have any tolerance for methadone,” said Zigler, who called the drug “horribly dangerous.”

Andy Miller writes in an article for that a new federal report found that the number of deaths involving methadone jumped nearly sevenfold from 1999 to 2006.

The rise in methadone-related fatalities was faster than increases in deaths from other opioid analgesics—drugs such as OxyContin and fentanyl—and from other narcotics.

Overall, poisoning deaths involving all opioid analgesics more than tripled over the seven-year time frame, increasing among all age groups, said the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Methadone is widely known for treatment of heroin addiction, but it has been increasingly prescribed to manage pain.

In March, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said methadone’s growing use for pain management has made more of the drug available, contributing to an increase in methadone-related overdose deaths.

Methadone prescriptions for pain management jumped from about 531,000 in 1998 to more than 4 million in 2006, the GAO found. Deaths related to the drug can occur from improper dosing levels, misuse by patients who may combine it with other drugs, or abuse of the drug for non-medical purposes, the agency said.

The CDC report said “a lack of knowledge about the unique properties of methadone was identified as contributing to some deaths.”

“We’ve been watching the trend in methadone deaths,” said Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and a co-author of the report. “Methadone has a long half-life. It stays in your body.”

The methadone poisonings have continued in the last two years, Warner said. “There have been some programs to address the problem. We’re hoping they decrease the deaths.”

Methadone is effective in treating heroin and pharmaceutical opiate addiction, said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. It’s also a good pain management drug if taken exactly as prescribed, he said.

But the rising death rate from methadone, especially from prescriptions, is not surprising because of its increased overall use, Banta-Green said. “If they take it when it’s not prescribed, it’s dangerous. If you’re not opiate-tolerant, it could kill you.”

Zigler now talks about methadone and his son’s death to teen groups. “My son’s death is tragic enough,” he said. “I’m trying to turn something horrible into something good—by educating the teens of the dangers of prescription drugs, especially methadone.”

Heroin Use Increasing in Wisconsin

In Madison, Wisconsin, heroin seems to be replacing crack and cocaine as the drug of choice.

The Tellurian UCAN rehabilitation center says it has seen a 500 percent increase in the number of heroin addicts that come to the center in the past three years.

“Our calls regarding heroin usage and addiction are off the charts,” said Tellurian’s Mike Florek.

Heroin usage is not just a big city problem. Mt. Horeb Police Chief Jeff Veloff has seen a major increase in heroin addiction in his community, as well.

Madison police have linked a number of recent armed robberies and other crimes to heroin addiction, which they say makes this new trend even more disturbing.

Man Pleads Guilty after Robbing Pharmacies

A Calgary man has found a new home in prison after robbing 10 pharmacies in attempts to feed a drug habit that was spiraling out of control. According to a report in the Vancouver Sun, Cory Alan Sharlow also had a habit of stealing cars to use as his getaway vehicles.

Sharlow committed the crimes during a month-long spree last fall and was recently sentenced to eight years by Provincial court Judge Anne Brown. The judge believed a lengthy sentence was the only appropriate option for Sharlow.

The lengthy term was sought due to the planning involved in each of Sharlow’s crimes. His were not the workings of a desperate man as much as they were a cunning criminal seeking to succeed in his efforts.

Crown prosecutor Marta Juzwiak pushed for as many as 10 years. Juzwiak noted it was clear that Sharlow planned his offences and indicated to police he would scope out a store, notice locations and make notes of times that cashiers were more likely to be alone. He would then steal a vehicle and drive it to the predetermined location.

The stolen car would then be abandoned as Sharlow would arrange for someone else to pick him up at the pre-determined location. With such evidence before him, combined with information Sharlow shared with police, he pleaded guilty to the heists, which included nine in Calgary and one in Okotoks.

In each of the robberies, Sharlow took between $70 and $1,700. Most of the time, he displayed a gun or imitation firearm to get what he wanted.

Kentucky Professor to Research Tramadol

A University of Kentucky professor received a $1.17 million research grant from federal stimulus money to research why a particular opioid drug is abused less often than others of the same type. William Stoops, an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and the University of Kentucky Center for Drug and Alcohol Research, will focus his research on the pharmacological effects of tramadol, a synthetic opioid.

Stoops said that by blocking certain receptors in the brain, he hopes to better understand why tramadol appears to have less potential for abuse than other analgesics derived from opium alkaloids such as morphine, narcotine, and codeine.

According to an article in the Kentucky Kernel, Stoops called prescription opioid abuse a “growing problem in Kentucky.” Stoops originally applied for the grant through the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a four-year project, but the organization determined it could be completed in two years. The first research projects will begin in early September.

After modifying the grant to two years, the National Institutes of Health decided to spend some of the funds from their stimulus package. Stoops said he plans to be mindful of the overall goal of the stimulus funds given to the National Institutes of Health when conducting his research.

“(The overall goal) basically is to answer pressing questions about public health and to keep or put people in good jobs,” Stoops said.