Washington’s Answer to Drug Addiction: Buprenorphine
A new medication for treating heroin addiction known as buprenorphine has grown in popularity due to its effectiveness at cutting cravings. For many people struggling with heroin addiction, buprenorphine seems like the new answer that could help them get through the difficult period of detox and relieve their withdrawal symptoms.
A lot of doctors are beginning to see the advantages of treating patients with buprenorphine rather than methadone and patients are also seeking out this medication because of its positive results. A major problem with this new medication, however, is the limited access that doctors and patients have to buprenorphine because of certain restrictions. Senators in Washington are questioning the restrictions and are hoping to increase access for the benefit of heroin abusers in recovery.
How Buprenorphine Can Help Heroin Addicts
Many heroin addicts receiving treatment in a detox center find methadone to be ineffective at getting rid of their cravings. These patients tend to respond better to buprenorphine and feel more stable without an intense desire to use again. Opiate use has been a growing problem in the U.S. with about 14.6 million Americans using either illegal drugs like heroin or prescribed painkillers. Overdose deaths have become an epidemic with the number of deaths related to opiate abuse surpassing automobile accidents.
Buprenorphine is relatively new but has proven to be helpful for the growing number of people seeking recovery from their addiction. The medication is a partial opiate, meaning it bonds with people’s opoid receptors for over a day so that other opiates like heroin cannot access them. Taking buprenorphine basically prevents patients from getting high off of heroin. The medication also works to cut cravings dramatically, eliminate the physical illness associated with withdrawal and normalize brain functioning. If it is taken in the initial phases of detox and supplemented with counseling and rehab treatment it can help patients manage addiction and maintain sobriety.
Treatment Using Medication
When opiate abusers begin using buprenorphine they can start to stabilize their lives and can focus on their other treatment services. Not having to deal with painful cravings can help addicts become more successful in their rehab programs. Once they have begun working on their addiction problems they can start to taper down their dosage with the help of their treatment center.
Treatment counselors are often cautious about decreasing the dosage of the medicine too quickly and some people may stay on medication like buprenorphine for years. However, there are numerous success stories of heroin addicts that were able to reach a state of permanent sobriety due to their use of medication. Doctors say that the medication is typically safe to use but there have been cases of abuse and overdose. The positive effects seem to outweigh the problems with a recent study in Baltimore showing medication to decrease fatal overdose by 50 percent.
If more patients had access to medication like buprenorphine then doctors could save the lives of many more addicts. Unfortunately, medication assisted therapies are only offered in less than half of all private sector treatment programs. Many treatment centers work on an abstinence-only model for heroin recovery but some facilities are expanding their use of buprenorphine because of its greater success rates.
As data continues to show better patient experiences with the use of medication it is likely that treatment centers will begin to change their attitudes on abstinence-only models. Many users of buprenorphine report that it helps them feel normal again immediately and more able to engage with other people and improve their relationships. If some of the restrictions limiting access to this medication were removed it could be a great help to heroin addicts seeking recovery.
photo credit: dnews13