Ottawa Citizen

Police prepare for new painkiller push

- MEGHAN HURLEY

Addicts in Ottawa have two months to figure out a new way to get high.

That is the estimated time available before the amount of Oxycontin in the city’s black market is gone, says the Ottawa Police Service.

The deadline has been created because of the recent introducti­on of a new pill called Oxyneo. The pill is to replace Oxycontin, the slowreleas­e painkiller that was designed to be taken every 12 hours.

But because addicts found ways to snort, smoke, swallow or inject the drug, a new pill was needed.

Oxyneo pills are opioid painkiller­s, just like Oxycontin, but they have been hardened to prevent the risk of being broken, crushed or chewed.

The tablets also become gelatinous when they come in contact with moisture, making it nearly impossible to use the crushed tablets.

But addicts can be pretty determined when they are denied their drug of choice and some people on the streets are already sharing recipes online to cook, microwave or freeze the drug to get around the tamper-proof barrier.

“Somebody is going to figure it out,” says Tom, a former OxyContin addict who didn’t want his last name used. “They’ll find something that works.”

Tom, 45, took as many as nine Oxycontin pills a day and couldn’t get out of bed until he had his first hit.

“We just want a high, that’s why we do it. People love it,” Tom says during lunch at the Shepherds of Good Hope. “Your first (high) is the best. You want to try to catch it.”

Something had to be done about Oxycontin. Pharmacy robberies conducted by addicts looking for the pills or dealers looking for product to sell at $40 a pill have soared in recent years.

That price could skyrocket as the supply of Oxycontin on the streets begins to diminish, says Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban, the officer in charge of the street crime unit.

“If they know the market is going to dry up, you can pretty much ask any price for it and if people want it, they will pay it,” Ghadban says. “I don’t think just because the clock strikes 12 ... there’s going to be this magical transforma­tion from one drug to another.”

Staff Sgt. Mike Laviolette, the officer in charge of the drug unit, says it’s too early to tell how the new version of oxycodone will affect Ottawa, but drug users will find other ways to get high.

Ghadban said his officers will look out for the drugs that addicts might turn to if and when all the Oxycontin is gone.

Likely substitute­s include morphine and Fentanyl patches. Addicts cut open the pocket of a Fentanyl patch and extract the drug to ingest or inject. Fentanyl is also an opioid painkiller, available only by prescripti­on.

Heroin use may also see a resurgence, but right now it’s the most difficult drug to get in Ottawa. A large amount of heroin was taken off the streets after Project Sleepwalke­r, an 18-month investigat­ion that ended in December as one of the largest drug busts in the history of the Ottawa Police Service.

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