WARNING: Some of these topics covered in this story could be triggers to opioid addicts.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In just the first half of 2016 more than 500 people died in Virginia from a prescription painkiller or heroin overdose.
8News is digging into what is causing the epidemic.
Oxycontin, a powerful painkiller, hit the market two decades ago with bold promises. One of these was that Oxycontin could provide 12 hours of relief from chronic pain.
But 8News has discovered that some of those promises may have been false and deceptive.
8News spoke with a recovering opioid abuser named Nate Dobler.
“I was 20 and I was in a bad car accident,” Dobler said.
Eventually, he ended up taking oxycontin, the drug that said it lasted 12 hours.Dobler was rushed to the hospital with several broken bones and, after numerous surgeries, he was prescribed opioids to ease his pain.
“For me, it was probably six hours or so and it would wear off and the pain would come back,” Dobler said.
If he waited the full 12 hours to take another pill, Dobler said he would become physically ill.
Dobler’s story is similar to what Dr. James Thompson, founder of Clean Life Medical in Henrico County, was hearing from many of his patients.
“I’ve run out early, I need to increase my dose, I have already increased my dose,” Thompson said. “The medicine just doesn’t seem to be working anymore.”
A recent L.A. Times investigation found internal documents showing the drug maker Purdue Pharmaceuticals had been warned soon after the drug hit the market that it was wearing off in eight hours. Despite this, the drugmaker continued its 12-hour marketing campaign.
Wanting to be pain-free, patients started taking the pills, which are a chemical cousin of heroin, more frequently, exposing them to addiction.”The widespread opioid abuse and addiction is partly the consequence of that campaign,” Thompson said.
“We are taught that it was wrong to under-treat pain,” Thompson said. “I think that we have to accept that we are somewhat responsible for this.”
In 2007 Purdue pleaded guilty to a felony charge of illegally misbranding Oxycontin, but the company still says research supports the 12-hour dosing label.
Some lawmakers are now calling for further investigation.