What Is Opana? Is It Addictive?
Many types of natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic opiates are produced and used in the US for a wide range of medical reasons.
Nevertheless, these drugs are often as addictive as their illicit counterparts, which include opium and heroin.
Opiate abuse and addiction constitute one of the most pervasive substance use problems in the US. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opiate abuse has reached epidemic proportions.
One type of opiate medicine is Opana. Originally thought to have a lower addiction potential compared to other opiate medicines, Opana has nevertheless contributed to this opiate abuse epidemic. While some people may believe that it is not as addictive as other opiates, its addictive potential is in fact on par with other opiate medicines. In some cases, it has even taken over other popular opiates like OxyContin (oxycodone) as a target of abuse, especially since abuse-deterrent formulations of both drugs have become available.
A Prescription Opiate Medicine
Opana is the brand name of a semi-synthetic opioid medication called oxymorphone. According to the National Library of Medicine, it is generally prescribed for moderate to severe pain, and for round-the-clock pain treatment, such as pain that occurs after injury or surgery. It can also be used before surgery to reduce anxiety, as a support to anesthesia during surgery, and for anxiety or pain control with severe chronic illness.
Opana comes in a short-acting version that can provide immediate relief for acute injury, and in an extended-release version that is used for long-term chronic pain treatment. , and its behavior in the body is more similar to how morphine works than other forms of opiates, such as oxycodone.
Opana’s History and Current Issues
Oxymorphone was first developed in Germany in 1914, according to The Essence of Analgesia and Analgesics.
In the 1960s, the Federal Drug Administration approved versions of oxymorphone called Numorphan and Numorphone. Then, around 2005, Opana was introduced as a new version of oxymorphone. Abuse issues developed soon after, including an infection related to the blood clotting disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which was connected with intravenous abuse of Opana.
Because Opana abuse reached high levels, recent attempts have been made at creating abuse-deterrent versions of the drug, supposedly making it harder to crush the pills or otherwise modify them for recreational use. However, a recent study in the journal Pain demonstrates that while such technology has resulted in reduced recreational use of opiates like OxyContin, the abuse-deterrent formulation of Opana has brought only a minimal reduction in abuse. As a result, the abuse and addiction risk of Opana continues to be a major problem to this day.
How Abuse and Addiction Develop
Opana abuse can often develop after a person has been on an Opana prescription for a long period of time, particularly if it is inappropriately prescribed or if the person does not follow prescribing instructions. This can lead to tolerance, which means that more of the substance is needed to provide the same effect. This, in turn, can result in changes in the brain that lead to addiction.
Opana may also be introduced to people specifically as a drug of abuse. Known by street names such as Pink-O, the O-Bomb, or Stop Signs, Opana is increasingly used specifically to get high. As with many drugs, young peopleare likely to experiment with these types of drugs.
Once a person is abusing an opiate, changes can occur in the brain that lead to tolerance and addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are at higher risk of this occurring include those who:
- Have a personal or family history of substance abuse or other mental health disorders
- Obtain multiple prescriptions at the same time
- Misuse the medication, either with off-label use or by not following use instructions properly
- Experience social pressures such as peer pressure
- Live in poverty
- Reside in rural areas
Signs of Opana Abuse and Addiction
If Opana abuse is suspected, there are signs and symptoms to look for. Some of these signs, as described by Psych Central, include:
- Regularly taking more of the drug or using it more often than prescribed or intended
- Theft of bottles of pills, or running out of pills faster than the prescription would indicate
- Developing relationship issues, including those based around use of the drug
- Inability to keep up with daily responsibilities
- Heavy focus on obtaining and using the drug
- Continuing to use the substance even though there are negative consequences
As with many opiates, physical and psychological symptoms of abuse include:
- Nausea or digestive distress
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Withdrawal symptoms if the person stops taking the drug
- Mental confusion
- Drowsiness and changes in sleep patterns
In addition, people who abuse Opana by injection may have purplish bruises under the skin, which may indicate infection with TTP.
Risks of Opana Abuse
Because it is more powerful than some other opiates, Opana can have a higher risk of adverse reactions when abused. The methods used to abuse Opana can quickly result in overdose, leading to death due to respiratory failure. In addition, Opana abuse can cause other severe physical issues, including:
- Respiratory issues, including ceased breathing
- HIV or hepatitis infections based on shared injection materials
- Injury to kidneys and other organs
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, changes in the brain due to long-term opiate abuse can also result in hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can cause permanent brain damage.
Getting Treatment for Opana Abuse
There are many options to treat substance abuse, including opiate abuse and addiction. Research shows that the treatment most likely to result in positive outcomes includes a comprehensive treatment plan that is personalized to fit the individual’s specific needs. This may include:
- Medical support for Opana detox and withdrawal
- Use of medications to reduce cravings until other treatments take effect (use determined on a case-by-case basis)
- Behavioral therapies to recognize and manage triggers for substance use
- Relationship or family therapy to strengthen the person’s support network
- Treatment of co-occurring disorders that complicate addiction
- Peer support through a 12-Step or similar program
- Aftercare programs to promote relapse prevention and transition out of rehab
While no single treatment works for everyone, these programs have research and studies behind them demonstrating that, when applied with regard to an individual’s specific needs, they can help in the goal of achieving recovery and maintaining abstinence from opiates like Opana.