RTE Liveline callers open up on 'nightmare' OxyContin experience after Dopesick Golden Globe win

By Brian Dillon

OxyContin is a "nightmare" drug which caused one listener to forget whole days and nearly broke down another listener's marriage, according to RTE Liveline callers.

A number of individuals rang in to Joe Duffy on Tuesday to describe their experiences with OxyContin, the painkiller which was the focus of the hit show Dopesick.

Dopesick told the story of a doctor and his patients who became addicted to OxyContin and other substances, as well as the Sackler family behind the company Purdue Pharma - which many claim was partly to blame for the opioid crisis in the United States.

Listeners heard stories of Irish people who were prescribed the drug.

One listener, Darren, said that he was prescribed OxyContin after an accident.

He told Joe: "This medication, within a matter of hours, I started seeing and hallucinating things that were mind-numbingly horrible.

"The nurses had to come in with all the screaming, I thought I saw my son on fire at the end of the bed.

"I've no recollection of certain conversations, I've no recollection of certain days."

Speaking about the popular series highlighting the issue, he added: "I genuinely didn't realise there were so many people suffering with this".

Meanwhile, another listener explained the effects the pain killer had on her and why she decided to stop taking it.

She said: "I couldn't function at all.

"I was drowsy, [had a] dry mouth, just wasn't myself at all. I weaned myself off it. I was a nurse at the time and looked it up and saw there was an opiate in it, so I came slowly off it."

She also revealed the anger she felt towards the pharmaceutical company the show was based on.

Another listener Paul said: "OxyContin is a nightmare. They call it hillbilly heroin, and that’s exactly what it is.

"It took me two years, and it nearly broke my marriage. I was suicidal, I couldn't sleep, I was maxed out on sleepers, I was maxed out on everything."

He also explained that if he ever tried to stop taking the drug, he would experience "spasms, nightmares and sweats all night".

A HSE spokeswoman told Dublin Live opioids such as OxyContin have a role in palliative and end of life care but are strictly controlled and the issues encountered in North America are not as prevalent in Europe.

She added: "According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), one of the notable differences between the two regions is that in Europe, very few populations had been presenting for specialised drug treatment for addiction to opioid pain medicines by comparison but this continues to be monitored.

"This reflects the different regulatory frameworks and approaches to marketing and prescribing that exist between Europe and the North America.

"The HSE and relevant partners work in collaboration with local and European networks to monitor emerging trends including the diversion and use of prescription medication.

"In relation to the current opioid situation in Ireland, the most recent and available data indicates that heroin is still the main opioid substance of concern across treatment and death publications. The HSE and relevant partners will continue to monitor this situation.

"For those who are concerned for their own or someone else’s opioid use, we would encourage them to contact the HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459 Monday – Friday 9:30 – 5:30 or email helpline@hse.ie."

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