Pubdate: Tue, 30 Nov 2004
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Chris Taber
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


A New High

Since its launch in 1996, OxyContin has become North America's most 
prescribed painkiller.

On the street, where its illicit use grows, it is known as "killer," a term 
Newmarket's Sandra Norris can attest is only too appropriate. Norris, a 
quality-improvement specialist with York Region, looked back to last May 
28. It was her 15th wedding anniversary, but it will be forever remembered 
as the day her nephew, Chad Gardiner, died. He committed suicide, leaping 
from the top level of a parking garage in London, Ont. He was 26, and 
addicted to OxyContin.

"Chad was my first-born nephew, the apple of my eye," she said, speaking 
from a cottage where she was summering recently at Big Bay Point. "He was a 
wonderful young man. I adored him."

Norris remembers the first turn in her nephew's downward spiral. "About 
four years ago, he was in a car accident and had terrible back pain. He was 
put on Oxycet, a milder form of OxyContin. Chad also had a genetic foot 
disorder. He suffered from that, too."

A hard worker and doting husband, Gardiner endured the pain quietly, making 
regular visits to doctors for both ailments. The pain would not subside.

"About a year ago, a doctor prescribed OxyContin and by January, he was 
taking up to 400 mg a day," Norris said. "The normal daily dose is from 40 
to 120 mg."

Early in the new year, Gardiner's father died from liver transplant 
complications. A boyhood friend also died. The pain, now emotional as well 
as physical, overwhelmed the young man.

"He was really grieving," Norris said. "We have evidence that his OxyContin 
usage was increasing. He was getting more and more addicted. He was on 
disability at the time and had no health plan. The drug was costing him 
from $600 to $800 a month. Last March, he had no money for anything. He 
finally admitted to his mother he was in trouble, that his drug use was the 

On March 18, Linda Gardiner took her son to his doctor, demanding help.

"The doctor basically blamed Chad for being an addict," Norris said. "All 
he did was reduce his prescription from 400 mg to 280 mg a day. That was 
it. From there, things got out of control."

On the day he died, Gardiner was to be fitted with special orthopedic shoes 
to relieve his foot discomfort.

"He was told he'd eventually be in a wheelchair," she said.

Norris said her sister Linda is convinced Gardiner's death is directly 
attributable to OxyContin.

"There's no question," she said. "We know OxyContin is highly addictive and 
it alters brain chemistry."

After researching the drug and both its intended use and illicit abuse, her 
sister launched a Web site called, dedicated to the 
memory of her son and husband. It also serves as a warning.

"We can't bring Chad back, but we can help save others" Norris said. "We 
want to increase awareness."

Norris can't confirm if her nephew was abusing the narcotic by ingesting it 
crushed, chewed or injecting a soluble to gain an instant, heroin-like 
euphoria. The drug's manufacturer Purdue Pharma advocates it as a 
time-release formulation and must be swallowed whole to deliver sustainable 
12-hour pain relief.

Regardless, OxyContin is fast becoming a popular street drug for its 
availability and rush.

An opioid-class narcotic derived from the opium alkaloid, it is a seductive 
alternative to heroin. Known by users as 'killer,' 'oxycotton' and 
'hillbilly heroin,' due to its particular popularity in rural areas, 
OxyContin, and its abuse, is reaching epidemic proportions in Newfoundland.

There, as in many parts of the United States, its illicit use is blamed for 
increased pharmacy robberies, related violence and user deaths.

A recent U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates almost one 
million people aged 12 or older had used OxyContin non-medically at least 
once, a 500-per-cent increase since 2000. Another 2002 U.S. study reports 
1.3 per cent of eighth graders and four per cent of Grade 12 students used 
the drug recreationally in the past year. An estimated 300 people in 31 
American states have died of OxyContin overdoses in the past 24 months.

Prevalence estimates of OxyContin abuse are not available in Canada, 
reports the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. An estimated 605,000 
prescriptions for OxyContin were written in Canada last year.

Central Ontario is so far largely exempt from the dark side of OxyContin.

"It's our sense it (OxyContin abuse) is not as prevalent here as it is in 
other areas," said Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy, a substance-abuse prevention 
educator with York Region. "It is an issue, as I'm sure it is used in York, 
but it isn't yet significant."

Det.-Sgt. Karen Noakes, of York Regional Police drugs and vice bureau said 
her department has not identified an OxyContin abuse trend.

"We're certainly aware that use appears to be on the rise on the East 
Coast, but not in York at this time," she said. "We haven't run into it 
through our office."

Anyone with OxyContin obtained without a prescription is in illegal 
possession of a controlled substance, and can be charged accordingly, 
Det.-Sgt. Noakes said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager