WINNIPEG -- At a time when addiction and black-market sales are on the rise in Winnipeg, city police officers have made one of their largest seizures of OxyContin, a highly addictive opiate.
Saturday’s bust reflects a growing problem of OxyContin abuse in local homes, especially in one age group, a support worker says.
“It seems to be the younger generation who’s addicted to OxyContin,” said Laurie Magee, manager of Addictions Foundation of Manitoba’s methadone program, which has a lengthy waiting list of people seeking treatment.
Magee said the most dominant group tends to be middle-class high school and university students.
Many people may overlook this addiction because they are unaware of the signs and don’t consider drugs such as OxyContin, which has legal use as a painkiller, in the same class as cocaine or crack cocaine, Magee said.
“It is another street drug,” she said.
Overdoses can be fatal.
Magee said a lot of people unknowingly get hooked when the powerful drug — known on the street as “hillbilly heroin” — is prescribed by a doctor for an illness or injury.
At 310 patients, AFM’s program is at maximum capacity and has a waiting list of 140, Magee said. It’s unknown how many Manitobans are addicted.
City police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said 3,400 OxyContin pills were seized, along with ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine and $60,000 in cash when officers stopped a vehicle near Osborne and Donald streets and searched a Foyle Street home in Tyndall Park.
Combined, the drugs have a street value of about $190,000, he said.
Michalyshen said the origin of the OxyContin is unknown.
The OxyContin seizure was the street crime unit’s largest and may have ties to Asian organized crime, he said.
Individually, these tablets would sell for $40 on the streets, police said.
Michalyshen said the suspects allegedly supplied to mid- to upper-level dealers.
Two men, aged 20 and 21, are facing charges.
By taking product off the street, some users may be scrambling for their next fix and going through withdrawals — flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and cramps — before they get it, Magee said.
She worries people may resort to other means — be it prescription fraud or theft — to get their next high.
Magee said there are tales of addicts who pop pills daily, dropping hundreds of dollars.
“After a while they’re just going to use it to stay normal. They don’t get high anymore,” Magee said.