Painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin lose their effectiveness over time. The cells inside the brain become accustomed to the changes that these drugs can bring, so people who take them might feel nothing at all with doses that were once overpowering. In time, people might need to switch to a drug that’s just stronger, right off the bat, so they won’t need to take huge doses of weaker drugs. Enter Opana.
This prescription medication contains oxymorphone hydrochloride, and it’s designed for people who find no relief from weaker painkiller drugs. However, just as people with apain can become accustomed to the work their painkillers can do, people with a history of drug abuse can also become immune to the power of Opana. And sometimes, they make terrible decisions that could harm their health in ways they never thought possible.
Injecting an Oral Drug
As people become accustomed to Opana, they may find that an oral pill doesn’t pack a big enough punch. They need more active ingredients, and they need those ingredients to hit the brain with speed. That’s the only way for these people to get the high they’re craving. For some, that need for a high leads to amending the pills they take. Instead of swallowing Opana pills, these people crush the pills and inject the powder directly into their veins.
In 2012, according to an analysis by MedPage Today, manufacturers became aware of the fact that people were abusing their drugs, and they pulled the original formulas from the marketplace in favor of a tamper-resistant formulation. These Opana pills are covered with a new, high-tech substance that releases vital ingredients slowly, so taking a bunch of pills doesn’t cause a high.
Rather than taking these pills orally, users are crushing the pills and mixing the powder with water, so it can be injected – but that coating is turned into a gel when it hits a liquid. Users who crush Opana pills and add them to liquids for injection should, in theory, get a sticky substance that just can’t be pulled into a needle.
Unfortunately, some users don’t understand how these new formulations work, and they continue to inject a drug that’s only made for oral consumption. If they don’t face injury from the new formulations, they could endure other serious health problems. In short, with each hit, they could be doing a great deal of damage.
Opana and Rare Blood Disorders
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people injecting Opana were developing an unusual blood disorder. The problem first appeared in 15 people in Tennessee, all of whom developed the same blood-borne illness and all of whom recovered with help.
In essence, this particular disorder causes anemia and bleeding. It’s sometimes seen in people who have platelet problems or e-coli infections, but in these people, it was tied directly to injecting the reformulated version of Opana.
Researchers aren’t really sure why this particular problem is happening, as Opana isn’t designed to assist with blood difficulties at all. But as this report makes clear, people who inject this particular drug are at a very high risk of developing a blood disorder that could cause serious harm.
Opana and Vein Health
While Opana seems to be interacting with the blood in rare and unusual ways, the drug can also cause more conventional forms of vein and cardiovascular problems that could have a deep impact on long-term health.
Veins and arteries are designed to be smooth, straight channels that deliver blood from one place to another, with no roadblocks and no delays. But each and every needle injection roughens that smooth surface just a little bit. That roughened surface could make the blood flow just a little bit slower, and when that happens, the blood could clump or clot. Those clots could destroy tissues altogether, or the clot could travel to a vital organ like the heart or lungs and cause a life-threatening complication.
While people might very well notice a heart attack or stroke caused by a clot, they may not be able to see the smaller pockets of damage that each needle puncture can cause, until all of those little wounds add up to one big problem. For example, in a study in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration, researchers found that people who inject drugs into the arms are close to 35 times more likely to get a venous ulcer, when compared to people who don’t inject. Those ulcers can be incredibly painful, and the damage isn’t always reversible. Each injection of Opana could make that possibility a reality.
People who inject Opana may also look for out-of-the-way spots in which to inject, so they can keep using drugs without sporting visible track marks. Unfortunately, some of the targets of those needles are loaded with sensitive tissues, and when they’re damaged, the issues can be major. For example, in a study in the Harm Reduction Journal, researchers found that more than 21 percent of people injecting drugs into the groin had damage that was considered “very severe.” That’s the sort of damage that could lead to blockages, dead tissue, or life-threatening strokes or heart attacks. Injecting into the lap could make that happen.
Injecting the Opana gel can also be life-threatening, and that’s an issue that could appear the very first time a person picks up a needle and gets ready to inject. That sticky, gooey coating can block veins and arteries almost immediately, which could result in almost immediate death for people who inject. Even though that’s a real risk, it’s not something people who inject Opana know about. For example, a woman in Tennessee who was caught just before injecting Opana had no idea that the anti-deterrent coating could turn into a gel. She just didn’t know about it, and she was thankful she was caught before she injected. She should be, too, as this one shot could have been catastrophic for her health.
Opana and HIV
While some of the dangers of Opana injection come from the ingredients in the pills or the coating that surrounds them, along with the movement of the needle into the body, some other side effects have to do with the ways in which people either get needles or the ways in which they behave when they’re high.
HIV is one such illness that is tied to injecting drugs, and according to AVERT, about 30 percent of global HIV injections outside of sub-Saharan Africa are related to injecting drugs. Often, that infection is caused by sharing needles.
As officials have struggled to deal with the damage injectable drugs can cause, they’ve tightened restrictions on needle sales in:
- Veterinary offices
- Medical clinics
- Doctors’ offices
That means people who want to inject drugs often struggle to find needles to use. Sometimes, they simply share needles with others who abuse drugs, and those others may have HIV.
This is a problem that’s particularly acute in people who abuse Opana. In an analysis quoted by TIME, an outbreak of HIV in Indiana was tied directly to the abuse of this painkiller, as 96 percent of those who tested positive for HIV were also injecting Opana.
Injecting the substance could be to blame, but Opana can also reduce inhibitions and social norms. That pill action could prompt some people to engage in risky sexual situations that they might otherwise avoid. If they take the pill in social situations, they could forgo protection that could keep them safe from HIV injection. But when they’re high on Opana, that protection might seem optional.
While researchers have done a great deal of work on HIV treatments, and the condition can be managed with medications, people who have HIV need to be treated early in the disease process and they need to follow their treatment plans to the letter. And the disease still does take lives.
Opana and Hepatitis
Just as molecules of HIV can be passed from one body to another with a shared needle, bits of infectious hepatitis agents can also be transported through injection of Opana.
Hepatitis C, which is the viral form of this disease, can survive on surfaces like needles for up to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s almost impossible to use conventional cleaners to reduce that risk. Even when the particles of blood are too small to be seen with the human eye, the risk of infection is present.
Once people are infected with hepatitis C, the cells of the liver begin to grow weakened and damaged. This vital organ has an important role to play in human health, but the signs of infection can be very subtle and hard to ignore, including:
- Upset stomach
- Joint pain
Some people may have no symptoms at all, while others might attribute the symptoms they do experience as part of the drug-taking process. If they don’t take the symptoms seriously, they may keep using and damaging the body until the damage is so severe and so marked that they need a liver transplant in order to stay alive.
Globally, about 90 percent of new cases of hepatitis C infection are attributed to drug injection, according to an analysis in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. While it’s possible for people to get this infection via another route, it’s clear that injection forms the quickest and smoothest path that leads to liver illness.
No Safe Shooting
There is no way to make Opana an easier or safer drug to inject. This substance is simply not designed to move from the outside into the bloodstream. Clots are always going to be an issue for people who attempt to move past the restrictions posed by the manufacturer.
Even with a pure source of Opana, the needle’s damage is almost impossible to overlook. Each puncture makes the smooth movement of blood a little harder to accomplish, and each shared needle makes other infections a little bit more likely.
The best way for people to avoid these Opana injection dangers is to enroll in a treatment program. Here, people can learn more about why they’re drawn to drug abuse, and they can pick up the skills and strengths they need to pull together a strong, drug-free future.
If you’re looking for help for an Opana addiction either in yourself or in someone you love, please contact us at Axis. We have a wealth of expert staffers who would love to work with you on a specialized treatment program, and our facilities can provide you with the restful, relaxing, clinically supported environment that’s best for healing. Call the number at the top of the page and we’ll get your enrollment process rolling.