The powerful painkiller Opana has replaced OxyContin as the drug of choice for addicts and pharmacy robbers. Users switched to Opana—the trade name for oxymorphone—after OxyContin's maker reformulated its pills to make them harder to snort, chew, or inject for a quick high. But Opana's makers have now introduced a crush-resistant formula, and authorities, who liken the fight against prescription painkiller abuse to a game of "Whac-a-Mole," are waiting to see what addicts turn to next, USA Today reports.
"They will adapt the same way drug traffickers or criminals will adapt to a new law. They are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction," a DEA special agent says. "When they either can't get those particular pharmaceuticals or can't afford them, they now gravitate to heroin." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the abuse of powerful painkillers as an epidemic, one which caused 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2008, the same year overdose deaths from the drugs surpassed those from heroin or cocaine.