Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Black market to save addicts it created?

  • Print

They are called the "black planes."

They fly in the middle of the night, in total darkness, their running lights turned off.

Related Items

They swoop over lakes nearby First Nations communities and invisibly drop their loads: boxes of OxyContin, much of which has been manufactured in illegal drug labs offshore.

Soon, there are snowmobiles roaring over the ice to pick up the cargo. Or in summertime, canoes, rowboats and small motorboats glide over the water with the same goal.

And so many of the men, women and children of a First Nation are able to get their fix.

If they don't, they will get very sick. So sick they may even die.

It's called "withdrawal."

Without their regular dose every eight hours or so, OxyContin addicts experience what has been called the "flu times 20" -- cold sweats, cramping, nausea, vomiting, stomach and leg cramps, diarrhea and overall sick, very, very sick. Withdrawal can last from 72 hours to a week and it is extremely difficult to cope without help from medical professionals.

First Nations leaders are saying that 70 per cent of the people in some of their communities are addicted to OxyContin. There are a multitude of reasons for this but the solutions are long term and a recent decision by the manufacturer of OxyContin (Purdue Pharma) seems to have created an immediate emergency, according to those same First Nations leaders.

Production of OxyContin ceased on March 1. In its place, the pharmaceutical manufacturers are offering OxyNEO, which is less susceptible to abuse because it is difficult to crush (and chew or snort or mix for intravenous injection) and it turns into a gel or tar when mixed with water, making it difficult to inject.

First Nations leaders are justifiably concerned about the potential of thousands of their citizens suddenly going into withdrawal, overloading their already overburdened health-care system. And face it, who wants to see friends and relatives and other loved ones go through so much sheer pain?

There are a multitude of reasons OxyContin addiction has become rampant in many remote, isolated First Nations. The experts testify it is both nature and nurture at work.

First of all, because these communities often are remote, there can be a genetic predisposition that is built up towards addictions. There are natural forces in the biology that are driving people towards seeking chemicals, which will release the endomorphs that cause addiction.

There is also the drive to escape reality -- multi-generational impacts of residential schools, abuse, dysfunctional environments -- which turns people into addicts.

The switch to OxyNEO doesn't seem to be the problem, because abuse of prescribed drugs has not been the major problem. Sure, there have been some unethical people who have obtained prescriptions they sell off for a profit, but an accounting of prescribed OxyContin in First Nations reveals it is not being handed out willy-nilly.

No, the major problem is the black market for addictive prescription drugs on Canada's remote First Nations.

"We are very worried about our brothers and sisters who are addicted to this drug. There is nothing to replace it," said Mike Metatawabin, the deputy chief of the 49-band Nishnawbe Aski Nation in the James Bay region.

"In our remote communities we are expecting a mass withdrawal of people who are addicted to this."

But the switch to OxyNEO seems to be causing nothing more than alarms about the highly addictive nature of the drug. As long as black market OxyContin continues to be manufactured and smuggled into First Nations, the problem of addiction continues and the worries about withdrawal can be withdrawn, for the immediate time being at least.

Still, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Chief Stan Beardy fears a "mass involuntary opiate withdrawal."

Why?

Patients who use OxyContin responsibly will get the same benefits from OxyNEO. Addicts who abuse this opiate by snorting or injecting will still get their supply from the black market.

We can all hope there isn't an "immediate problem" of mass withdrawal, but it appears the only real, long-term solution is to stop the supply of OxyContin from illegal offshore smugglers.

marksonthings@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2012 A10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Maria Aragon performs new single "Nothing but a Beat"

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 101130-Winnipeg Free Press Columns of light reach skyward to the stars above Sanford Mb Tuesday night. The effect is produced by streetlights refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air on humid winter nights. Stand Up.....
  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you concerned about the spread of Ebola virus?

View Results

Ads by Google