Spicy drugs

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Some Harvard researchers are suggesting adulterating oral opioids with capsaicin to prevent diversion. The idea is that abusers typically crush then snort the drug. Since inhaling capsaicin is extremely unpleasant, this would deter diversion and abuse:
Recently, the Richard J. Kitz Professor of Anesthesia Research at Harvard Medical School hit on the idea of using the same irritating chemical to "burn" people who illegally use pain medications. When an abuser of a medication like OxyContin snorts, chews, or injects the drug, he or she would get intense hot pain instead of an expected happy high. A patient taking the same capsaicin-laced pill could get needed relief and avoid unpleasant sensations simply by swallowing the pills whole, as directed.

"If a formulation containing capsaicin is swallowed whole, release of the irritant in the stomach and small intestine would not cause discomfort," Woolf maintains. "The majority of the capsaicin would be cleared by the liver on first pass."

I see several potential problems with this scheme:

  • Many opioid abusers snort or inject the drug because it gives a more intense rush, but it's perfectly possible to get high by taking them orally, and some addicts already do so. It seems likely that they would just switch.
  • In my experience, eating spicy food isn't completely without side effects. I'm not sure people should have to suffer anal burning in order to get relief from chronic pain. Some experimentation would be required to determine if there were a level of capsaicin that causes pain upon snorting but not whole ingestion.
  • Oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin) is extremely soluble in water, but capsaicin is nearly insoluble in water. It should be easy to separate the opiate from the irritant by simply dissolving the mixture in water and decanting the solution off the precipitate.

All that said, this strategy is already being employed to some extent; a number of the commonly prescribed opioid preparations, such as Vicodin and Percocet are already dispensed as a mixture of opioid and acetaminophen. As acetaminophen is already toxic in high doses, this already presents a modest deterrent to abuse. Oxycontin, however, is a pure formulation, which, along with the high dosage levels in which it is typically prescribed, makes it an attractive target for abuse.

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6 Comments

A: Part of the point of Oxycodon is that it is a very slow time-release. Although it can be abused in pill form, its NOT very satisfying. Thus the whole point of the Oxycodon preparation.

B: The water-soluble is the big one: Dissolve off the opiate and then evaporate/inject. With all the other work abusers have to do, this seems minor. "If there exists a trivial countermeasure to a security protocol, where the attacker will undoubtedly use it, question whether the protocol is worth it."

Oxycontin is extended release, but a lot of abused opiates (percocet, demerol, etc.) are not. Also, the extended release part of oxycontin is the packaging, not the drug per se. My guess is that you could crush the oxycontin and then pour it back into a gelatin capsule and get the entire dose at once in an oral form factor while avoiding the capsaicin problem.

Oh, another countermeasure...

The problem is there are SEVERAL methods of extraction: "Crush and *", or "dissolve and *", at least to start with.

It seems reasonable to to counter "Crush and *", I've heard a proposal of micro-encapsulating a counter-opiate, so if crushed, you end up with an opiate but its counter as well. But that doesn't work against "dissolve and *".

I think part of the problem is the focus has been on "Crush and X", where X == Snort/injest directly, and so often its focused on the Snort/injest/inject step after crushing as well.

And what about those who get a legal high from capsaicin? Won't this lead them down the path towards hard drugs, like Oxycontin?

Hi, I hope somehow this gets re-directed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster thread.

I really wish the first poster (ekr?) wouldn't throw cold water on satire and sarcasm and declare them bad tactics because they might damage someone's self-esteem or hurt their feelings.

I've felt tremendously frustrated as America has been inundated with Intelligent Design/Creation Science/Creationism grasping the political reins of public education and forcing kids to listen to this nonsense. And if you read what the Intelligent Design folks say -- NOTHING scientific, NOTHING factual, NOTHING logical makes any impression on their neverending spew of babble.

So equally frustrated Bobby Henderson (he has a physics degree from U-Oregon) just decided to despair of all possibilities of engaging these dopes in intelligent dialogue, and invented the Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory -- which proves everything about the date of the universe and the origin of species EXACTLY as well as Intelligent Design. (But a lot less well than Natural Selection.)

If Intelligent Design keeps expainding its political control of public education in the Bush-Fundie Era, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, when you go to have surgery in your local hospital, half your doctors will sincerely believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old, and all species were created uniquely during a six-day period. The woman who anesthetizes you, the man who carves you open -- their understanding of Life, Biology and Anatony will have been contaminated with this Clearly Religious Mythological Babble which has utterly no foundation in science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, logic or reason.

Reason and Science and Mathematics are -- through no fault of their own -- failing.

Hoorah for Satire. Hoorah for Sarcasm. Hoorah for Bobby Henderson's intentional Nonsense. Hoorah for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The ID crowd already made themselves Fools. Henderson is just dressing them up in Fools' Costumes.


PS. Please throw in a liberal bunch of paragraph breaks. Your Comment software killed all my paragraph breaks.

I'm frustrated by it too. I just don't agree that making fun of your political opponents is going to improve the situation.

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