How Big Pharma Created a Generation of Oxyconteens in the US
Frank Morris was only 23 when he ended up in rehab. But he was already a full-blown junkie, smoking crack on the streets of San Francisco, and nearly losing his left arm after accidentally pumping a full shot into his artery. He tells me the drug that led him down this path—that helped him accelerate from a teenager smoking pot in his parent’s basement to a young man shooting heroin in a filthy apartment—was a medication called OxyContin.
Matthew began taking painkillers—Percocet, then OxyContin—as a teenager. His father was battling cancer, so narcotics were readily available in the house. While vacationing in Florida, he was unable to take the number of pills his body had become dependent upon. He told me about his confusion at his typical withdrawal symptoms—vomiting, aches, sweating, headaches. He thought he had a bad flu. He went to the hospital because he felt so ill, though he didn’t honestly answer his doctors’ questions about his drug use. Doctors were confused by his symptoms, even giving Matthew a spinal tap to investigate. After leaving the hospital, he took some pills and his horrible “flu symptoms” disappeared.
At the peak of his addiction, Matthew was taking nine 80mg pills a day, for a combined 720mg. He bought them off of a local friend who was prescribed 300 per month for her Fibromyalgia, a syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.
Courtney, 28, was already a seasoned drug addict at age 17. When she left a treatment facility after overcoming a methamphetamine addiction, she tried OxyContin, thinking it would be easier to control. She immediately liked it. Within two months she was taking it everyday—and getting extremely dope-sick when she couldn’t find it. In a familiar sequence of events, she went from snorting to shooting Oxy, and then shooting heroin when she couldn’t find any Oxys. She bought blank prescription pads on the black market, forging OxyContin prescriptions to fuel her habit. She was caught trying to fill out a fake prescription at a local pharmacy. She eventually detoxed in a jail cell.