Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 9, 2011

Opana spikes overdose deaths

TAZEWELL, Va. — Pain medication helps people dealing with chronic pain, but it ruins and even takes lives when it is abused. One new and potent drug has started contributing to the region’s share of overdose deaths.

Opana, a strong pain medication also known as Numorpha, Numorphone and oxymorphone, is a type of synthetic narcotic, said Dennis Lee, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Tazewell County. Law enforcement agencies started seeing the drug about nine months ago.

Since its introduction to the addict community, it is suspected as the cause of six overdose deaths, Lee said. One problem is that addicts who abuse other pain medications such as Dilaudid and oxycodone are not used to the potency of Opana.

“I think in the community of individuals who are addicted, there is an ignorance about this drug,” Lee said Friday during a press conference at Tazewell Town Hall. “They feel it’s another form of oxycodone and that it is reformulated, but it is not.”

Like other pain medications, Opane is a time-released drug that works gradually after a patient takes it. Addicts will grind up the pills and take them to get an immediate “high,” but Opane is so strong, it can give the user an overdose.

“I’m sure it is a lifesaving drug to people in chronic, debilitating pain, but when abused, it’s dangerous,” Lee said.

Opane is rated as a Schedule II controlled substance along with drugs such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone; this is the highest level for legal drugs. Schedule I controlled substances include ones that have no medical purpose such as the drug LSD, Lee said.

Prescription pill trafficking is still the number one crime problem in Tazewell County. During the press conference, Bluefield, Va., Police Chief Harry Cundiff said that the drug trade often to leads to crimes such as breaking and entry, metal thefts and passing bad checks.

“If you take away drug addiction, it would put us out of a job,” Lee said. “About 80 percent of crimes committed are related to drugs.”

Text Only
Local News
National and World
Newspaper Deivery Routes Available
Sister Newspapers' News
Local News Videos