When county and federal law enforcement officials announced forming a coalition to battle prescription drug abuse last year, they called themselves the OxyContin Task Force. It highlighted the powerful painkiller OxyContin, one brand of the drug oxycodone.

Soon after the announcement, I asked researchers, toxicologists, law enforcement officials and other people familiar with drug abuse if OxyContin represented a rising prescription drug abuse. They agreed with the trend, but didn’t always agree with the focus on OxyContin.

After months of researching prescription drug abuse across the region, the task force has decided to shift its mission and adopt a new name: The Prescription Drug Task Force. So what happened to OxyContin?

“There’s a number of other drugs from a law enforcement standpoint that we’re seeing as a problem,” said Tom Lenox, who oversees the task force with the DEA’s tactical diversion squad. “We just think it’s probably a more appropriate way to encompass the problem.”

In fact, two other prescription drugs — methadone and diazepam (Valium) — have each contributed to the accidental deaths of more people in the past five years than oxycodone, according to analysis of case data by the Medical Examiner’s Office. Other prescription drugs, such as fentanyl and diphenhydramine, the compound behind Benadryl, have also contributed to an increasing number of deaths.

Lenox said OxyContin will still be part of the task force’s campaign to raise awareness and crackdown on prescription drug abuse, but added, “There are other addictive drugs that people need to be cognizant of.”


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