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ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- Widespread publicity on the abuse of prescription drugs such as OxyContin could have devastating results for those who rely on the medication to control crippling pain, says the Canadian Pain Society. The focus on the illegal use of oxycodone-based drugs is unfairly demonizing the drug, the Toronto-based society said in a news release issued yesterday.
"Certainly there have been cases of abuse of the drug. But we're worried about throwing the baby out with the bath water," said Gary Rollman, society president.
"An enormous number of people can benefit and only a small number of people are misusing the drugs."
Reports of abuse have created an atmosphere where physicians are afraid to prescribe oxycodone drugs and patients are afraid to take them, he said.
The 1,000 members of the Canadian Pain Society, a chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain, include physicians, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and scientists involved with the management of pain across Canada.
Introduced in Canada and the U.S. in the mid-1990s, OxyContin is now the No. 1 painkiller prescribed by doctors for cancer-related and chronic pain.
Dubbed "hillbilly heroin" for its popularity in rural areas with limited access to street drugs, it is linked to seven deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Nova Scotia, 22 sudden deaths over the past 22 months have been linked to abuse of prescription drugs, including OxyContin.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has blamed the drug for a 100% jump in the number of armed robberies and a provincial task force reported earlier this month that abuse of the drug is growing among teens.