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Patty Hajdu, Thunder Bay's Drug Strategy co-ordinator

Thunder Bay's Drug Strategy co-ordinator says a planned replacement for Oxycontin won't likely be much help in combating opiate abuse.

The new OxyNEO pills will be hardened to make it difficult for people to crush them. But Patty Hajdu says people will likely find a way to do it — and that could be dangerous.

"Oftentimes the compounds they're putting in the drugs themselves — to make them less divertible — are really harmful for human beings to ingest," she said — particularly if the pills are broken, chewed, snorted or injected.

Desperate determination

Sherry Tougas, a Thunder Bay resident who has struggled with drug addiction for decades, said the new pill formulation likely won’t curb the drug’s abuse by people who are desperate to get high.

Tougas pointed out the hurdle of a hardened pill won’t stop those abusers who are "every day ... waking up in a frenzy [asking] where and how — how am I going to make my body not ache for this stuff?"

She said people will still find a way to melt down the drug or discover a means of "crushing it in a certain way…Where there's a will there's a way." 

Hajdu said she worries that, if the new drug is successful in curbing Oxy abuse, people will turn to something else.   

"In some communities in the United States they've seen a rise in heroin," she said. "So people will still look for an opiate."

But Thunder Bay doctor Sarah Eckler said, in theory, OxyNEO is a positive step to discourage abuse.

Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma plans to introduce the new pills early next year. The new version has been approved by Health Canada.