About 25% of drug abusers entering rehab reported abusing reformulated OxyContin (oxycodone HCl) despite package labeling that highlights the abuse-deterrent properties, data from a study published in JAMA Psychiatry has shown.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine surveyed about 11,000 drug users across 150 drug-treatment facilities and found that the abuse-deterrent formulation of OxyContin only reduced abusers and addicts from use only to a point. Around the time when the abuse-deterrent formulation was launched in 2010, 45% of study participants reported using OxyContin at least once in the previous 30 days to get high. In 2012, the percent of those who abused the abuse-deterrent form in the month prior to entering rehab reduced to 26%.

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But Theodore J. Cicero, PhD, a professor of neuropharmacology in psychiatry, noted that 70% of people who had stopped using OxyContin started using heroin instead. Creating drugs that are harder to abuse does not appear to change the demand in drug abuse since people find alternative ways to get high. More focus is needed on why people continue to use these drugs rather than what manufacturers do to deter abusers in order to tackle the problem, he concluded.

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