Mar 3, 2014 7:21 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Critics of powerful new painkiller say it poses dangerous risks

TUCSON - A powerful new prescription painkiller is now on the market despite concerns of potential abuse.

The drug called Zohydro could help many people struggling with severe pain and is up to 10 times more potent than pills aready available.

While any prescription drug has the potential for abuse, the sheer potency of Zohydro has critics saying it puts lives at risk, despite the FDA giving it the green light.

Cynthia Smith, 25, is recovering from an addiction that has taken over her life.

"I basically would go to any length to get it, including escorting and prostituting to get the drug," Cynthia said.

She overdosed on heroin on Christmas Eve with her fiancee.

"When i got out of the hospital i found out that my fiancee had overdosed and died on heroin," Cynthia said.

Her addiction traces back to when she was 14 years old -- and got hooked on painkillers. In time, she turned to heroin because of how cheap it was to get on the street.

"I basically went from an upper-middle class family to being homeless on the streets to losing everything,"

Now there's a new prescription painkiller on the market -- Zohydro -- and that's especially worrisome for addiction specialists like Karen Smith of 'The Haven' treatment center.

"The fact that it's 10 times more potent than the pain medications right now, I can see certainly a higher incident of overdoses," Karen told News 4 Tucson.

In a statement, the drug maker of the new prescription, Zogenix, wrote: "The FDA concluded the benefits of Zohydro ER outweigh the risks."

Karen Smith said the potential for dangerous consequences is very real.

"If they crush this pill up and snort it, it can be extremely deadly," Karen said.

Still, while the new drug is more controlled, Cynthia said it's a dangerous one to have out on the market.

'I had so many friends in high school that were using opiates already and now a number of them are dead or addicted to heroin," Cynthia said.

The drug maker is working on a form of the pill that is not easily crushed, though, that could take years to complete.


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