Docs: It's Replacing OxyContin And Is Twice As PowerfulBy Tony Aiello

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that prescription narcotics killed more people in 2010 than cocaine and heroin combined.

As a result, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano issued a public health alert Monday on the increasing usage of the painkiller Opana — generically known as Oxymorphone.

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The drug is a morphine-like opioid prescribed to manage moderate to severe pain around-the-clock. It comes in different colors and has different street names. Nassau County is seeing signs of abuse, but most parents have never heard of it, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

“Opana threatens to become our next OxyContin,” said Dr. Jeff Reynolds of the Long Island Council Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

Opana Packs Quite The Punch. 1010 WINS’ Kathleen Maloney Reports.

Last October, Mangano issued a warning about the rapid rise of OxyContin, but Nassau County said it knows Opana is growing in popularity, because it’s been able to track Medicaid prescriptions through local pharmacies. Over the past six months, Oxycontin prescriptions have dropped 43 percent, while Opana prescriptions have soared 45 percent.

“While there has been a significant decrease in OxyContin Medicaid prescriptions since last fall, prescription narcotics in general have continued to rise and OxyContin is now being replaced by another narcotic – Opana,” Mangano said.

Opana is twice as potent as OxyContin and cheaper. Prices start at $1 per milligram.

Last month, Nassau County Police issued a bulletin alerting officers to the abuse of the drug. After the coating is removed, the pill is usually crushed and snorted.

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“It’s extended release, so if you grind it up and snort it you get it all in one fell swoop,” Dr. Reynolds said.

An Opana overdose is characterized by respiratory depression, stupor or coma, cold and clammy skin, constricted pupils, muscle flaccidity, cardiac arrest and death.

In a county struggling with an epidemic of prescription pill abuse, Opana abuse is one more thing for parents to discuss with their kids.

“They think that, you know, because it came from a doctor it’s okay. They don’t know it really has a lot of side effects to it,” Hempstead student Ashley Ormon said.

Cops say parents need to police the medicine chest, while they police the streets.

Two months ago, police in Newport, Tenn. said Opana was responsible for five fatal overdoses over three months. In Louisville, Kentucky the drug has been linked to nine overdose deaths.

How do you think officials can curb the abuse of prescription drugs? Sound off below

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Tony Aiello