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OxyContin Change A Concern For Addiction Workers

Former addicts and front-line addiction workers say the plan to stop manufacturing the opiate OxyContin could lead to new problems, as users switch to different drugs.

Purdue Pharma Canada has said it will stop manufacturing the drug in Canada at the end of the month and replace it with a new formulation called OxyNEO, which will be harder to crush for snorting or injection.

Health Canada says when the pill is chewed or crushed, then injected or inhaled, it produces a "heroin-like euphoria."

Former addict Jamie Walsh, from Ottawa, said the experience of withdrawal from the drug was something he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy. He said he has concerns about what people will do when they can't access the drug.

"With Oxy, even sometimes when I was at my lowest points and I really didn't want to use the drug no more…there's really no other choice," said Walsh, who has been clean for three years with the aid of Harvest House, a south Ottawa centre for people trying to break addictions.

Few options during OxyContin withdrawal

"You either go to a hospital and come down, or go to a methadone clinic and come down, or go to jail," said Walsh.

Harvest House associate director Gary Wand said he believes addicts will still find a way to abuse the new pill…or move on to another drug like heroin.

"People who are abusing opiates will tend to want to get more opiates in a different form to avoid getting sick," said Wand.

Dr. Clement Sun with the Addiction Centre Toronto said the change is a good start but agrees the new medication won't solve the underlying issues.

"It's a good attempt," said Sun. "It certainly isn't going to make our job any easier, it's a pill that can't be crushed as easily, so in terms of drug addicts, they are just going to switch to something else."

Wand said the best advice he can give is for anyone addicted to OxyContin to get clean as soon as possible.

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