Prescription opioid abuse is an epidemic in theUnited States. Prescription painkillers are easily accessible, with over 209.4 million prescriptions written for opioid analgesics in 2010, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Introduced in 2012, the STOPP (Stop Tampering of Prescription Pills) Act could help prevent abuse of prescription opioids.
Two Roads to Addiction
In medical circumstances, the risk of opioid addiction must be balanced against the need for the painkiller. Long-term use of prescription painkillers often leads to addiction, even under a doctor’s care. This road to addiction is usually unintentional.
Others intentionally tamper with opioid medication before abusing the drugs. Pills may be crushed, melted or dissolved so they can be snorted or injected. Administering opioids in these manners increases the drugs’ potency and the risk of addiction or overdose.
STOPP and Anti-Tampering Pills
When it comes to drug abuse, prevention is more desirable than treatment. Drug intervention programs work well, but preventing drug abuse before it cascades into addiction is ideal. This is precisely what STOPP hopes to accomplish.
The STOPP Act encourages pharmaceutical companies to pursue the research and development of tamper-resistant medication. Such medication resists dissolving or crushing and is more difficult to abuse than older drug formulations.
If STOPP passes, the Act would cover all medication containing controlled substances, including painkillers, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers. Sales of older drug formulations would be prohibited if the FDA approves a safer, tamper-resistant version of the medication. STOPP would also require the FDA to refuse approval of new formulations without tamper resistant formulas.
Could it Work?
No one’s suggesting the STOPP Act will end prescription abuse. By making pill tampering more difficult, however, the ACT may dissuade people from experimenting with potentially dangerous medication, a move that could potentially save lives.
While the STOPP Act languishes in Congress, pharmaceutical companies are recognizing the need for tamper-resistant medication. Purdue, for instance, now manufactures a tamper-resistant version of Oxycontin, while Endo does the same for Opana.
Solving the nation’s prescription abuse problem requires a multi-disciplinary approach, including drug prevention and intervention programs, education, and initiatives such as STOPP. Tamper-resistant pills are a step in the right direction.