Relieving Pain With Abuse-Proof Drugs

Brooks Bono
Brooks Bono lapook pain

For many Americans, drug abuse is a painful fact of life. And pain is often the cause. By one estimate, more than 33 million Americans have abused prescription pain killers. For the second part of the series, Easing the Pain, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook examines new prescription pain killers that are designed to prevent abuse.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brooks Bono remembers the exact moment he first bit into an oxycodone pill and felt the rush of narcotic.

"It was just massive pain ..." he said.

When Brooks chewed the oxycodone rather than swallowing it whole as directed, he broke the time-release mechanism and absorbed most of the narcotic within a few minutes.

"It was just a blissful feeling," he said.

Born with a tumor in his spine, Bono had multiple surgeries, leaving him searching for relief. But his doctor was reluctant to prescribe too much.

"You think he was afraid of overdosing you?" LaPook asked.

"Definitely," Bono said. "Or, prescribing me and me overdosing myself and then him getting blamed."

Finding pain relief at last was overwhelming - and sure enough, so was the temptation to abuse.

"Then I realized if I took three or four that I also got high off of it, which ended up being what led to an addiction," Bono said.

Up to 25 percent of chronic pain patients abuse medication at some point. So companies are developing new formulations that can't be crushed, chewed, snorted or injected.

"It has the content of a viscous gel," said Dr. Lynn Webster.

One new drug being tested is Remoxy, a form of OxyContin. It's too soft to be crushed. Another drug, Embeda, is a pill version of morphine. If crushed, snorted or injected, it releases a chemical that blocks the effect of the narcotic.

"Oh it was painful to do something like this. Simple movement of my shoulder was really unbearable," said Scott Taylor.

After a year on Embeda, Taylor is pain-free. Although he never had the temptation to abuse the drug, others did.

"I've had a few of my work buddies ask if it got you high if you could try it and I 'm like no, don't do anything other than relief pain, and that's only " he said.

"I suspect over a period of time if these new formulations are as effective and safe as we think that they'll probably replace most other medications out there," Webster said.

These drugs are in the final stages of testing and are waiting to be approved by the FDA. For Brooks Bono, they come too late. But with the help of a new team of pain doctors, he's no longer abusing the narcotics.

If this type of pill were available years ago, does Bono think he would have avoided becoming addicted in the first place?

"There would have been no temptation, to abuse the medication cause it wouldn't have been an option," he said.

These pills won't stop patients from taking too many of them, but they should help doctors be more aggressive with pain - and less worried about abuse.