Tamper-proof prescription drugs may halt abuse
29 June 2008
Magazine issue 2662
IT'S a class of drug abused by 1.5 million Americans. To quit, addicts have to go cold turkey: vomiting, diarrhoea, insomnia. Thousands die every year from overdoses. Add up the days lost from work and the money spent caring for addicts, and the toll reaches $10 billion annually.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the drugs in question are crack cocaine or heroin. Instead, the culprits are prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. By binding to and disrupting the activity of brain cells that control the experience of pain, they ease the suffering caused by a range of conditions from back problems to terminal cancer. When milder painkillers fail, opioids bring vital relief.
Around a decade ago, when medical organisations began encouraging doctors to do more to help patients in pain, opioids, which can be formulated to offer long-lasting relief, seemed to be the answer. But although pain management ...
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