Category Archives: Drug Treatment

Buprenorphine Implant for Opioid Addiction

buprenorphine implantThe FDA has approved a new implantable drug called Probuphine. Probuphine contains the partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine, which is used to suppress the opioid withdrawal symptoms that interfere with daily life.

The implant is the size of a matchstick and is inserted under the skin in the forearm area. It steadily releases a dose of buprenorphine which has been scientifically proven an effective treatment for eliminating opiate withdrawal symptoms in a number of people physically dependent on opioids.

With heroin and opioid overdose deaths at an all time high in the United States, this new alternative offers one more beneficial path for anyone struggling with opioid relapse and chronic withdrawal. Importantly, Probuphine only treats the physical withdrawal from opioids such that the underlying psychological factors of addiction must still be treated through counseling and other support approaches.

The Wall Street Journal has an extensive article on this new medication and the historically important role of methadone and oral buprenorphine. In the article, Nora Volkow (director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) is quoted as saying:

Scientific evidence suggests that maintenance treatment with these medications in the context of behavioral treatment and recovery support are more effective in the treatment of opioid-use disorder than short-term detoxification programs aimed at abstinence.

Over 47,000 people died in the U.S. of drug overdoses in 2014. A majority of these were attributed to heroin and prescription painkillers. With continued coverage in the media and ongoing community discussion, more answers and helpful interventions will hopefully see the light of day.

Methadone Information | Suboxone Information

Making A New Start

methadone-graphicA study by the government agency SAMHSA indicated there were approximately 254,000 patients receiving methadone for opioid addiction in 2006. In 2015, it is most likely that number is much higher given the prevalence of opioid addiction and the continued expansion of outpatient opioid treatment services in the United States. Today, there are considerably more methadone clinics and suboxone-approved physicians than there were a decade ago.

Making a new start with medication-assisted treatment is what hundreds of people across the country are deciding to do for themselves every week. Addiction is a progressive illness – one in which a person’s ability to choose is severely compromised. Medication-assisted treatment using either methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) provides an important open door to a more responsible, quality life.

A majority of individuals suffering with opioid addiction (particularly when the illness spans years) have experienced dramatic brain changes which deepened their physiological dependency on opiates. This physical dependency is not easily removed. It is severe and persistent thus leading the person to do whatever is necessary to avoid being sick from opioid withdrawal.

Most long-term addicted individuals will tell you they rarely, if ever, get high from the illicit substances they use. They are simply trying to avoid being sick from debilitating opioid withdrawal symptoms. When a patient chooses to receive methadone or buprenorphine under the supervision of a doctor, they are making a decision to face their illness and to do something constructive about it.

As a family or friend, it is very helpful to gain an understanding of addiction and how medication-assisted treatment can be life changing for a person stuck in the cycle of opiate addiction.

Making a new start can be a bit frightening. Will methadone work for me? Will my loved ones condemn me? What about my job, or my legal situation? It becomes easy to put off making a decision when so many questions come into play.

It is important to remember that the road to recovery begins with just one step forward. That step will lead to another and another. This new start is always available. The message is one of hope and opportunity. Opiate addiction is a treatable illness. Medication-assistance can make a real difference.

Right Path Clinics Offer Suboxone and Addiction Counseling

right-path-clinics-2Right Path is an opioid treatment provider operating in the greater Hampton Roads area of eastern Virginia. The organization specializes in the use of burprenorphine (the critical ingredient in Suboxone that alleviates opioid withdrawal symptoms).

Right Path currently have outpatient services in Virginia Beach, Newport News, and Suffolk, but plan to soon offer a location convenient for residents and visitors along the Outer Banks.

Recognizing the importance of individualized treatment plans, Right Path tailor their services to the needs of the individual patient. While suboxone is beneficial in eliminating the pain of opioid withdrawal, addiction counseling is essential in helping patients to understand the addiction and recovery process. Right Path provide addiction counseling as a component of their overall treatment program.

Evening and weekend hours are offered, and most insurance is accepted. The Right Path website has a helpful page that outlines various questions and issues that you might cover with your Suboxone Doctor in your first appointment. Their website provides another highly informative page on Suboxone which answers many common questions about this increasingly popular medication. More information on Right Path’s locations and contact information can be obtained here:

Maine’s Governor LePage May Undermine Opioid Addiction Treatment

Maine2Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, has announced that he is considering ceasing state-funded support for methadone. As an alternative, Maine is proposing that patients prescribed methadone be switched to a more affordable suboxone option as part of a $727,000 state budget cut. The story is here.

This is an indefensible decision with dire medical implications for opioid addicted patients currently receiving methadone. It equates to government officials making medical decisions that will negatively impact the health and well-being of thousands of people.

Representative Drew Gattine (a member of the Health & Human Services Committee) is quoted as saying the proposal shows a lack of understanding of the societal costs of addiction throughout the state of Maine.

Methadone and suboxone are both effective medications, but offer very unique characteristics and applications depending on the severity & chronicity of a patient’s opioid addiction. Buprenorphine (the actual opioid agonist contained in suboxone) has a much lower ceiling effect than does methadone meaning its effectiveness would be insufficient for a potentially large percentage of stable methadone patients on 60mg or more of methadone daily. Many patients on a moderate to high maintenance dose of methadone would not have their opioid withdrawal symptoms managed by even the maximum dosage allowed for suboxone – which is generally around 32 mg per day.

For a politician to, in essence, prescribe inappropriate medical treatment for a diagnosable medical condition is a huge state liability. The repercussions are alarming. Hopefully, the local medical establishment and other state officials will step in before irreversible damage is done. Methadone works. This cannot be denied.

Methadone has a long, proven track record of medical efficacy and cost effectiveness. Maine, in particular, has suffered in recent years with a severe opioid addiction epidemic. Reducing access to appropriate medical treatment like methadone will likely result in overdose deaths across Maine and an explosion of condemnation for the governor and his office.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction is not a fad. It is scientifically proven effective and endorsed by multiple state & federal regulatory agencies as well as ASAM.

Methadone Treatment Services

methadone-treatment-resourcesWhen one thinks of methadone treatment, they usually consider the power of methadone to eliminate opiate withdrawal and the value this has to someone fighting off withdrawal sickness.

Methadone treatment actually consists of more than just the “medication assistance” component. Real treatment always addresses the underlying lifestyle, thinking, and behavioral elements that are a significant part of the addictive process. These areas are specifically addressed through counseling. All opioid treatment programs providing methadone in the United States are required to also offer counseling to their patients in order to help them achieve true and lasting success.

Some patients will need more counseling & emotional support than others. But all patients new to the recovery process will need to receive basic education on addiction as an illness, how to build a personal recovery program, and to have an opportunity to develop new coping and relapse prevention skills.

Methadone clinics in the U.S. vary in the ways that they deliver counseling services. Some programs are heavy on individual counseling while some focus more on a group therapy model. Often, programs will provide a blend of the two with optional family or collateral participation available as needed.

There is another important consideration with methadone treatment pertaining to the need to also treat “co-occurring disorders”. Co-occurring disorders consist of other psychiatric symptoms that merit special interventions and additional care. For example, many individuals dealing with an opioid addiction may also have struggled with chronic depression or anxiety. Unless these disorders are treated effectively, they can become stumbling blocks on the road to recovery, and can undermine a person’s sobriety success.

A number of methadone programs have in-house psychiatric services to address co-occurring disorders and to provide additional medications and/or therapy if required. Opioid treatment programs that do not have psyc services will typically refer a patient out to the local mental health center or a private provider who specializes in psychiatric care.

Methadone treatment has at times been presented as a harm reduction approach to dealing with severe addiction. In other words, reducing a person’s risk of overdose or exposure to other illnesses is a worthwhile goal. However, “harm reduction” alone does not represent all that recovery truly offers. There are many people who have found life long recovery through their introduction to methadone treatment. After becoming drug free, they went on to have families, start businesses, develop new careers, and enjoy a full life in the best sense.

The possibilities are limitless in recovery. Addiction is treatable. Methadone can be an important piece of the recovery journey. For many thousands of patients, it was the new start that they had hoped for.