The Naloxone and Buprenorphine Implant
If you are reading this, and you or a family member is suffering with opiate abuse, know that you are certainly not alone. There are 1.9 million Americans living with an addiction to opioids and prescription drugs, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other estimates put this number higher.
Treating drug abuse effectively is becoming increasingly important as the addiction problem keeps growing – not just in large cities in California or New York, but also in small towns and rural communities all across the country.
There are several potential solutions being considered to prevent needless deaths related to an opiate addiction, including the use of naloxone (with or without a prescription) for overdose and a new form of buprenorphine, an implant called Probuphine.
Naloxone as an Overdose Antidote Solution
One such solution being used in New York is making naloxone, a drug that is highly effective for saving lives after an overdose, available without a prescription. It allows people who have addiction and can’t afford, or are afraid to visit physicians in order to get a prescription to have access to the lifesaving drug.
This has been met with criticism though. Some say that making the antidote available could increase drug use and might create a safety net that could encourage opiate abusers to increase their use.
Others believe that providing naloxone when an overdose occurs gives the person a second chance at life and additional time to seek the help they so desperately need. Studies show that 44 people die of a prescription painkiller overdose every day in the Unites States and opioid overdoses have spiked 200 percent in the 14 years between 2000 and 2014. Naloxone has been welcome by families that has loved ones affected by opiate abuse, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, the drug certainly has its benefits and supporters.
USA today reports that naloxone is so safe and effective that police in many cities throughout the country are keeping it on their persons and in their cars to administer while on duty if the need arises. The state of New York has made it readily available to friends and family members of people suffering from opiate addiction in hopes that it will save even more lives.
Is Buprenorphine a Solution for Opiate Abuse?
The FDA scientific advisory committee recently voted 12 to 5 in favor of a using a six-month implant of buprenorphine (Probuphine) to assist recovering prescription painkiller patients, who already started using dissolvable buprenorphine film. Those in favor of the implant cite reasons like erasing the stigma from monthly prescriptions, eliminating the illegal sale of buprenorphine or the worry of forgetting to take the daily dose.
Those opposing the implant also have compelling arguments, including the facts that people with the implant receive a higher dosage than those taking other weaker forms of opioid painkiller and that this implant maintains the patient opioid dependent. Opponents believe that all it accomplishes is to replace one drug dependence with another one.
In a study testing buprenorphine in conjunction with counseling, out of 24 addicts, only three were able to successfully quit. Data based on an FDA survey across many trials reveals that up to one-third of opiate abusers, were successful in quitting their addiction.
Are these Solutions the Right Choice for Society?
Both solutions present interesting potential fixes to a problem that plagues our society. We are just now beginning to understand that opiate dependence is a medical problem that needs medical solutions.
That is not the sum total of addiction, however. It is a complex issue that involves physical and emotional health care — and all aspects of the condition need to be effectively treated for a lasting, sustainable recovery to take place.
Making naloxone more widely available and easier for families and friends to obtain, does help prolong the life of the person who has overdosed long enough to get help – as long as the patient follow through with getting seeking treatment.
Heroin addiction presents a growing problem – one that has been notoriously difficult to treat. For some, the implantable device represents a treatment that will prevent overdoses and save lives – at least for the six-month period and that is often what matters. While it doesn’t show greater effectiveness, when used as prescribed, than the pills currently available, the implant eliminates the ability of drug abusers to sell their pills to get money to buy heroin instead.
Other More Viable Solutions for Treatment
The truth is, though, that naloxone and buprenorphine will not likely end an addiction. They only manage to help with some of the symptoms and consequences that an opiate abuse can cause. They have not alone been proven to be an effective solution to battle or treat opiate addiction.
What you should know is that there are tremendous advances in the medical field, to combat and reverse opiate physical dependence. It involves a multi- disciplinary team of specialists to synchronize an individualized evaluation process and make the necessary adjustments in order to offer the most effective drug treatment option. If responsible medicine, compassion and commitment is applied, the solution can be reached.