Not too long ago, the furthermost northeastern state in the U.S. was known primarily as the capital of large-clawed lobster. Today the state with the craggy coastline garnered the infamous title as the state with eight times the national average for its residents recovering from OxyContin addition.
Studies conducted by a multitude of federal agencies compare this prescription drug epidemic to the effect of crack cocaine in the 1980s.
"Maine has a serious prescription drug abuse problem, and oxycodone and OxyContin are the two most sought-after prescription drugs," said Sanford Police Chief Thomas Connolly. "It leads to a whole universe of issues."
OxyContin is the opiate-derived analgesic oxycodone made by Purdue Pharma. A generic version of oxycodone became available in 2004.
According to authorities, one 80-milligram tablet of OxyContin, sometimes called "OC" or "hillbilly heroin," fetches up to $100 on the street.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, pharmacy robberies in Maine targeting OxyContin have increased in number to 21 in 2010, from seven in 2009 and two in 2008.
At the same time, Maine has the highest rate of residents in treatment for addiction for these prescription pills — about eight times the national average, at 386 people per 100,000 as of 2008, the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration says.
This data only applies to treatment. When considering abuse of the pain relief drugs, Maine scores about the national average according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Because pharmaceuticals are legal, police and researchers believe that the pills are easier to obtain than illicit drugs. Statistics in the research demonstrate that U.S. drug seekers also are becoming younger, with teenagers and young adults often believing prescription pills are safer than illegal drugs.
The studies show that the rate of prescription drug abuse exceeds the abuse of cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and meth combined.