Is This Inmate Gaming Me?

Lanea runs the pharmacy at the Ada Co. Jail in Boise. Should I have her order in some oxybutynin?

I have seen several patients recently with an unusual complaint.

A typical presentation would be this:  a male in his early 30s and without medical history  complains of frequent urination: “I have to get up 10-12 times a night to pee.”  He reports no other symptoms, like dysuria or discharge or pain.  This reportedly has been going on for years, though he has never before sought medical attention for it.  He says it got worse once he arrived at his current jail around three months ago.

He says he ran across an ad for a medicine “that I think would help me, called oxy-something.”  He must be referring to oxybutynin (Ditropan).  This is an anticholinergic drug that is used to treat “hyperactive bladder syndrome” or “bladder instability.” I would not expect a healthy 30 year old male to suddenly have hyperactive bladder.

There are a couple of other problems with this history that made me suspicious, as well.  First, oxybutynin is generic and so is not being advertised.  Second, I asked the deputies to watch him one night and record how many times he got up to go to the bathroom.  He only went once.

I suspect that he is seeking this medication for secondary gain of some kind.

I have seen several patients in the medical clinic with similar requests recently.  I have also seen several young and healthy patients transferred to my jails from other correctional facilities with prescriptions for oxybutynin.  This seems to be a recent phenomenon.  I do not recall seeing such patients say five years ago.

Is oxybutynin a medication of abuse?  Can inmates get high on it?  I suspect that it is, because in is an anticholinergic drug.  The Prescriber’s Letter reports that oxybutynin can cause “hallucinations, agitation, confusion and sedation.”  Sounds like a great drug to get high on!  But I have not read or heard about oxybutynin being abused in correctional facilities before.

Of course, I practice in Idaho, which is 3-5 years behind the rest of the country!  I first heard about inmates snorting bupropion to get high when I visited the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix a good two years before that problem cropped up in my Idaho institutions.

The “can be abused” problem drug list now contains trazodone, Seroquel, bupropion, amitriptyline, gabapentin, and several others.  These drugs have legitimate medical indications, but their potential for abuse must be considered when using them in correctional facilities. Should oxybutynin and the urologic anticholinergics be added to this list?

Have you had a problem with oxybutynin at your institution?  Please comment!

44 thoughts on “Is This Inmate Gaming Me?

  1. Brilliant! Never thought of that. Makes sense though. Seems like a large dose would be needed for adequate induction of hallucinations. Treatment is supportive.

  2. The complaint of increased urinary frequency is not uncommon in the incarcerated male population over my 7+ years experience at this. But no specific requests for the Ditropan class of meds noted. I usually give a trial of Doxazosin, presuming BPOH related etiology. But your index of suspicion on this is appreciated, and I appreciate you bringing it up.

    • Hello Dr Buck,

      I’m not in corrections but I treat men with a proclivity for violence.

      I learn something new everyday. I myself have a lot of neurological spinal cord damage secondary to a king surgery. I only sweat one one side especially in summertime. I myself only use this med in summer. 5 mg prn.

      Thank you for your information and as I did not know of this drug has an addiction liability … I will keep my eyes open for this in my practice. I just thought it was a run of the mill anticolengic. This has been an eye opener for me and I’m glad you took the time to bring this abuse into light. In my practice 80 % are Court mandates men and 20% walk ins … Thank you for informing myself of this and I’ll watch for it in my practice. I’d would like to know more. If you are interested in speaking with me, my email is …

      I hope to hear from you. I’m Canadian. All my best,


      • This medication has been highly abused for years. I first learned about the addictive reality of this medication while I was in prison.

        Every inmate that I knew, that had RX for DPANS, they (nor I) needed the medication. The slang in the NC prison system; D-Pans, Smurfs, and most commonly referred to as Dum-Dums.

        In all honesty, I am still addicted to them this very date. I won’t go into much more detail than that, unless you have an interest in discussing it further with an addicts point of view.

        I think it is more widely known, but Dramamine (also introduced to me in the prison system) is highly addictive when misused.

        • I’ll comment on this tomorrow. I think you’ll want to speak with me. I’ve seen this drug on the rise. It’s potential for positive be dr tfgv j j DC my

  3. You had us hold the med for one of our patients, and now we have had 1 or 2 kites asking for the medication (not by name.) So glad you are on top of these issues.

  4. I have a patient at my pharmacy who purchases large amounts of oxybutynin every couple weeks. She goes through approximately 240tabs in a 2 week span and visits ERs to get RXs for oxybutynin. None of the other pharmacists could figure out what she was doing with it, but we figured something was up. Maybe large doses causes enough delirium that it is worth all the dry mouth.

    • It is not a great experience, but many want to escape a traumatic experience, and regardless of the bad side effects, the
      head change (mental) in prison is desired regardless of consequences that may present itself

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  6. I am a NP practicing in corrections where I have been for 11 years, I thought I had seen it all until recently. I work in a Mississippi facility with an inmate population of 1,000. I do not have a single inmate on Ditropan. I have now started seeing Oklahoma inmates by tele-med and there is a huge population of young healthy men taking Ditropan, also Bentyl and many of the inmates are on both! They do often request it by name. I did not prescribe these medications for these inmates, most of them came to the facility already on them from other correctional facilities. When I explain that I am concerned why a 30 y/o healthy male would have such frequent urination (concerns of DM etc…) because it is not normal they become uncomfortable and a bit defensive, I then inform them we will be perfoming a DRE and suddenly their problems seem to get better 🙂 I definitely feel both Ditropan and Bentyl are being abused in the correctional setting. Prescribers beware!

  7. I was incarcerated at Idaho correctional center for 6 years and yes inmates do get very high off it as I have done my self it was given to us as a KOP. And 10 to 15 of the blue pills would get you high like on mushrooms.

    • Interesting. Hopefully, not too much injecting of oxybutynin or anything else will be going on in correctional facilities.

      • Are you kidding, ” Hopefully, not too much injecting of oxybutynin or anything else will be going on in correctional facilities” ? No offence but I’ve been in jail and there is a a lot of injecting going on believe it or not ! Find inmates that will tell you all the little secret hiding areas not that the corrections staff don’t already know but if you’re in jail and want to get high you’ll find a way to hide things especially with all that time on your hand, LOL Cheers

  8. I just ran across this bc I googled abuse of ditropan bc my boyfriend who is in a florida doc prison said a whole bunch of the inmates were taking like 8 of these at a time ro “trip” I was shocked bc I have been on this med for over 20 yrs due to a neurogenic bladder from having an autoimmine paralysis at age 14. So yes this med is DEFINITELY being abused….crazy!

  9. I llive in Scotland where addicts on the streets take them for a drowsey~ trippy time,gabapentin abuse is rife along with diazepam,temazipan and many others. The people of Dundee,Scotland have again found a new drug that is very popular. But how long is the half life

  10. I have heard of abuse of this drug at the prison where I volunteer. This was a woman who was taking 10-12 a day and buying them off others on the yard.

  11. Interesting!! I have worked in jails for quite a while as a pharmacist, and I’d wondered about all the Ditropan use in young men. I’m mentioning this to our physicians.

  12. I just started working corrections 2 months ago in the medical clinic as a PA. Gabapentin use is diffuse for all kinds of pain. Also I am seeing 20 ad 30 year olds on oxybutynin (Ditropan) for frequency (self reported history) of urination. Some are even prescribed by the urologist in consult(apparently they are unaware of abuse potential). Sometimes I see the gabapentin, oxybutynin, bentyl combo, again more in young inmates. I have never heard of this on the outside. I work in the Department of Corrections in Colorado, USA. Any journal articles describing this in corrections? I did find one article , google, ” gabapentin abuse 2015″ which was recent and interesting.

    • Thanks for your comment Dan! Very little has been written about the abuse potential of these medications. It is not much of an issue outside of corrections, evidently.

      • In Colorado Department of Corrections we will be making gabapentin non formulary in the first few months of the year, per our staff meeting last week. Our CMO said most state corrections facilities nationally are going that way. Not a day goes by at least one or more offenders asking me to start gabapentin to try it out, restart discontinued gabapentin, or increase gabapentin. For oxybutynin and bentyl probably once a week. Actually if you go to PubMed central, and put in gabapentin abuse or oxybutynin abuse there are a lot of articles, especially written in recent years.

      • Hello. I see this is quite old but for some reason it popped up in my email today. I happen to be an ex-inmate i did 3yrs in Florida. I’ve been home almost 7 years, but while incarcerated i saw all kinds of drug abuse. A VERY popular drug was oxybutynin. I was thinking my moms been on this for incontinence for a long time. Any how the girls would take about 7 of them and would say their eyes would shake & make it to where they were unable to focus to even read anything. They were buying other peoples sheets of these also. I was shocked. They were hooked! I kept telling my friend that most of us were in prison for drug use so it’s time we change our ways before we go home. She would agree with me & a few hours later be walking around the compound looking to buy some. They called them smurfs.

  13. I know Bentyl ( I hope I spelled that correct) Has been removed from the facility I work and Likely the entire department due to offenders scraping the drug and snorting it…….. apparently when snorted it has the effect of Heroin, I believe.

      • Update from my last comment on abuse meds. We are moving to eliminate gabapentin use for chronic pain here in Colorado DOC. Offenders caught cheeking meds is a daily occurence. Also oxybutynin is off formulary now and Bentyl is next. Tricyclics, SSRIs, SNRIs, and occasiional anticonvulsants are the replacements. Now only psych is using gabapentin and welbutrin.

        • DO they not crush or crush and float the gabapentin in your state. All facilities I have worked at in the midwest have been crushing or crushing and floating in water for years now. I have worked in 6 state facilities and 1 federal facility. Even the federal detention center I worked in followed that practice. Bentyl is 50/50 in my experience in the Midwest some crush it some do not. Also once we have an inmate found to be hoarding or cheeking/transferring we give them an opportunity to take whatever it was liquefied. If they really need it they will suffer through the awful taste or often they will just continue to refuse it as they were not taking anyway.

  14. Yes we do see this, and it is often snorted in combination with Wellbutrin to enhance benefits. We see offenders manipulating to get both prescribed.

  15. I did some time in prison and I can tell you personally that Wellbutrin is abused EXTREMELY bad. 90% of inmates that get prescribed Wellbutrin or “Wellies” or “purple powers” have contracts with someone that they give them to another inmate daily and in return get payed in commesary. Other drugs that are majorly abused are gabapentin , pamelara. Remeron. Seroquel. Effexor. It seems like the prison I was at they had damn near everyone on the same drugs. For depression wellbutrin. For sleep remeron. But neurontins were expensive because only the diabetics and people who got arrested who had private insurance and were on neurontins would be able to keep getting them

  16. Yes this inmate is trying to fool you.. I know oxybutrin. I myself inject it. It gets you really messed up.. it feels like my heart us goibg to stop beating sometimes and I crave the rush even tho it sounds scary.. and I never hulicated. I don’t inject more than 6 a shot.. most time I crush 4 and cook it and inject it. And within a minute iy messes me up. My mouth gets really dry and my vision gets blurry and black strings or dots floatys I see in my eyes. Its like a dry drunk. You get dizzy as well and have hard time focusing on typing textes and reading messages.. ur skin also drys up. And your head feels like it’s pumping and u can hear ringers in your head.. you can barely walk straight if your really high.. and ur body twitches.. when u inject it the medicine in the syringe looks like blue berry juice. Clear blue medicine.. I actually got then for my weak bladder and I never knew what they were ubtil my friend told me and she said I have a gold mine bc I had so many bottles filled. On the street they go a dollar to 2 dollars. Cheap drug and strong high.. doctors should look into this and take ppl drug trials to find out what could happen if injected.. I think this shit is gonna kill me soon.. and I’m a dumb ass addicted to keep doing it.. bc it’s FREE and I’m on the methadone and nothing else could give me a rush besides coke .. but i get drug tested and I don’t oxybutrins are prescripted to me and doesn’t show up on a drug test like cocaine..i get random drug tested so I don’t take the chances with cocaine. If you wanna know anything else about it. Ask me.

  17. Brilliant! Never thought of that. Makes sense though. Seems like a large dose would be needed for adequate induction of hallucinations. Treatment is supportive.

  18. Women in the WI prison system abuse them. I didn’t when I was incarcerated, but I remember that they changed it from a med an inmate could keep on them to a correctional officer dispensing them. (Yes, our state doesn’t mandate nurses to dispense medicine.)

  19. I used to abuse these along with benadryl and there was one other I can’t remember the name of. Yes super heavy, I would call the experience more a dillerient then hallucinogen though.

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  21. I can first hand account for this drugs effects.
    At 4x the threptic dose it produces a deliriant / mild dissociative effect not unlike a recreational dose of diphenhydramine (benadryl). Also like Benadryl, the high isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. I could see why someone would mistake it for simply an adverse effect.

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