Category Archives: Opiate Addiction

Shifting Tide Favors Medication in Opioid Treatment

The nation’s opioid epidemic has reached fever pitch and is now being spotlighted by all levels of local and national media. This is obviously good news.

At the center of this discussion is what can be done to reduce opioid fatalities, and to provide addicted people a real opportunity to regain control over their lives. This discussion inevitably leads to examining the benefit of medication-assisted treatment.

Methadone, buprenorphine, and naloxone are the three leading alternatives for helping patients deal with the perpetual withdrawal sickness that comes from a physiological dependency on opioids.

In recent congressional testimony to members of Congress, Scott Gottlieb (Commissioner of the FDA) specifically heralded the life-saving benefits of methadone and similar medications.

His testimony included comments on the wealth of information behind the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment. It is vitally important that legislative decision-makers obtain a clear understanding about what works and what does not in regard to coping successfully with this opioid crisis.

Time is of the essence because the present overdose fatality rate in the United States is over 64,000 per year. This number is beyond alarming. Here is an article that points to a possible positive shift in communities’ openness to having local opioid treatment nearby. Hopefully, this becomes a trend.

Achieving Stability in the Recovery Process

Opioid addiction is one of the more challenging substance use disorders to confront and manage because of its physical dependency characteristics. Once the process of physical addiction has taken hold, avoiding daily withdrawal becomes a high hurdle.

Because of this daily dilemma, it becomes difficult to remain focused on other aspects of recovery. It’s the law of “first things first” that applies when tackling any problem. There is a natural order and sequence which must be followed when trying to solve a complex task. Opioid addiction recovery is no exception.

Obtaining relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms is a very important first step in addressing opioid addiction. This is why medication-assisted treatment is specifically identified as a medical best practice. Science and years of exhaustive research have proven (not just suggested) that treatment coupled with medication-assistance offers the greatest probability of long-term success when trying to overcome moderate to severe opioid addiction.

Fortunately, more people are becoming aware of the need for buprenorphine, methadone, and other medications that can play a vital role in stabilizing an opioid addicted individual at the onset of their personal recovery.

Historically, efforts to come off of opioids in a detox setting have been often unsuccessful because many detoxes used insufficient medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Consequently, patients would typically begin to get sick in 1-2 days with their withdrawal symptoms becoming intolerable. This can lead to patients abandoning the detox effort and a quick return to illicit opiates.

However, the tide is turning. As the American opioid crisis continues to impact families and U.S. society, many more physicians, lawmakers, and government representatives are gaining a quick education on the enormous value of medication-assisted treatment. Methadone is at the forefront of this new awareness as is buprenorphine-based products like Suboxone.

Appropriate medications used responsibly and under a doctor’s supervision provide stability, hope, and opportunity.

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

President Proposes Funding Increase for Treating Opioid Addiction

funding drug treatmentPresident Obama recently attended the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Professionals and concerned citizens used the forum to explore ways to address America’s rising opioid addiction problem.

The President agreed that increased funding is needed to raise access to drug treatment in an effort to simply avoid incarcerating those addicted to heroin and other potentially deadly opioids.

The NBC article referenced here states that over 28,000 people died last year from opioid overdose in the United States. This number has quadrupled since 1999. Many of the overdoses occur from various opioids laced with a powerful prescription pain killer called fentanyl.

Methadone and buprenorphone (the active ingredient in suboxone) are the leading medications used in medication-assisted treatment approaches. Naloxone is another important medication which has been used to reverse opioid overdose. It has saved thousands of lives and is being widely adopted by first responders and police departments across the country due to its proven effectiveness.

President Obama expressed that the U.S. will move toward improved drug treatment access for opioid addicted individuals and that the issue of addiction will be dealt with more as a public health issue as opposed to strictly a criminal act. Included in the proposed legislation is doubling the patient limit such that doctors can treat up to 200 people with buprenorphine (suboxone). The current patient limit is 100.

The Department of Health and Human Services is reported to have committed another $94 million to community health centers to boost their provision of medication-assisted treatment in poor and isolated communities. Many rural areas of the U.S. have very limited availability of opioid addiction services.

Online Methadone Assessment

PBS Special on Heroin Addiction in America

frontlinePBS’ Frontline series of specials just aired a compelling documentary by the name of Chasing Heroin. The two hour investigation profiles a number of individuals who became addicted to opioids, some of whom chose methadone or suboxone to help them successfully manage their addictive disorder.

The documentary highlights that addiction is best addressed as a medical illness instead of a punishable criminal act. There is widespread consensus today that putting large numbers of people in prison for drug use has not been an effective approach to the problem of drug addiction.

Incarcerating users is very costly and ultimately does not lead to remaining drug free once released from prison. For those suffering with a chronic opioid addiction, medication assisted treatment has become the standard of care proven to be most effective – particularly for those individuals who have tried others forms of treatment that did not work.

The Frontline documentary linked above is very informative, but please be forewarned that it does display vivid scenes of drug use that some viewers may find disturbing. So please exercise appropriate caution before viewing.

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