CDC Gives Overview of Heroin Problem in America

In the latest VitalSigns report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the focus is heroin addiction. Heroin use has more than doubled in the last decade among people between the ages of 18 and 25, and thousands of lives are being lost to the drug each year.

The CDC listed out several points that need to be considered in each state to help reduce the drug’s impact. These include:

  • Use all available tools to reduce the prescription painkiller use and availability, as they represent the biggest risk factor for developing a heroin addiction
  • Increase access to substance abuse treatment services for those abusing or addicted to the drug
  • Expand access to and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths
  • Increase efforts for reducing harm through a variety of prevention and intervention tactics
  • Share best practices with other communities and help them get implemented around the nation

In addition to the above information, additional facts were shared to help increase awareness. One of them was the fact that nearly every heroin user also uses other drugs or alcohol, and poly-substance abuse also increases the chances of drug interaction and compounding negative effects.

While many government agencies continue to push medication-assisted treatment such as using methadone or buprenorphine as long-term maintenance drugs, we try to help people explore the option of finding treatment centers that use other methods for rehabilitation first. Dependency on another form of opioid should be a last resort for the course of treatment in our book. We very routinely get calls from people looking for Suboxone clinics, and we are often able to help them find other alternatives to consider.

If you know of someone who needs help to recover from a heroin problem, call us today for more information and resources for recovering from substance abuse.

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More Doctors Prescribing Buprenorphine

sacovergDrug treatment programs have long been regarded as the best solution to help someone get clean from illegal drugs. While the country grapples with the increasing use of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, some wonder why more addicts are not seeking help from rehabilitation facilities.

Experts agree that the stigma attached to drug abuse prevents some people from feeling comfortable in enrolling in a treatment facility. In addition to the perceived shun from society, users often have a difficult time admitting that they need help and following through with their admittance into treatment. Many point out that the painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin or prescription painkillers cause addicts to give up their quest for sobriety in favor of preventing the painful, flulike symptoms. However, a recent study shows that the gap between addicts and at some forms of treatment might be getting smaller, due to more physicians ability to prescribe medication to help with the process.

Buprenorphine is a medication that, when taken, helps to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that people feel when they stop using heroin or prescription painkillers. In order to obtain a prescription for buprenorphine, someone has to go to a doctor that is approved to prescribe, or they have to turn to a treatment program. In the past, many addicts have found it difficult to locate a doctor with this ability, but now more and more doctors are obtaining the certificate that allows them to treat addicts. In fact, it has been reported that 98.9% of physicians were not licensed to dispense buprenorphine prior to 2011. That number has since dropped to 46.8%. The dramatic increase of doctors who are willing and able to help treat opioid dependency has led to a 74% increase in the availability of this form of treatment.

It must be stated, though, that the administration of buprenorphine alone doesn’t cure an addiction to heroin or painkillers. Long-term maintenance programs don’t provide the full solutions either, as the end goal should be to get off any opioid if at all possible. This is evidenced by the fact that buprenorphine itself is a drug that is abused on the street, and why doctors who prescribe the medication typically refer people to a treatment facility to address the full issues related to the substance abuse problem. If you are looking for help to recover from an opiate addiction, contact us today we’ll help you locate a treatment program that works.

Drugs Designed to Curb Opioid Addiction Also Being Abused

buprenorphinepillsSuboxone is a less-potent opioid drug used to treat opioid addiction. Although it has changed the lives of many addicts since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it more than a decade ago, Suboxone and generic drugs like it have not helped everyone.

Experts allege that drugs like Suboxone may be perpetuating the problem it is meant to help due to poor oversight of how the medication is dispensed and used. A major issue has arisen since these drugs are now being sold on the street alongside heroin and prescription painkillers. Instead of being used to control addiction, these drugs are being sold as a gateway substance to the more potent opioids that are overtaking our cities and suburbs.

“The benefits of the appropriate medical use of Suboxone probably far outweigh the potential for abuse,” says Eric Wish, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland. “But those benefits will be jeopardized if we don’t take care of this abuse issue.”

Before Suboxone, methadone was the most common treatment for opioid addiction. Methadone has a reputation for abuse, causes withdrawal symptoms that can rival those of heroin, and is only dispensed at methadone clinics. Suboxone, on the other hand, is available by prescription for take-home use, and is not as strong as methadone.

Rates of Suboxone abuse pale in comparison to abuse rates of prescription painkillers, heroin, and methadone; however, the number of emergency room visits involving the drug have increased tenfold over a five-year period, reaching more than 30,000 incidents in 2010. Over half of the incidents involved the nonmedical use of Suboxone or a similar generic version, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

The question is whether authorities should regulate the availability of the substance, which could induce high demand on the streets. Authorities could also loosen regulations, although many worry that fewer users will be under the care of a physician and that the substance would be more likely to fall into the wrong hands.

Addiction Treatment for Expecting Mothers

pregnantmotherOne of the most difficult, yet essential populations of people struggling with substance abuse includes expecting mothers. Women who are pregnant require additional care and delicacy to ensure safe conditions for both the mothers and the babies.

In the case of opiate addiction, this can be incredibly difficult, since withdrawal from drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers can be excruciatingly painful and the physical toll creates a high risk for miscarriage. As a result, the standard treatment for a long time has been to put the mother on methadone. It seems to work, but then the newborn must go through withdrawal during the first days of life. It creates a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), and is an incredibly painful thing for a newborn.

The advent of buprenorphine has made this a bit easier, as the withdrawal symptoms are decreased in both severity and duration. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the use of buprenorphine reduced the number of hospitalization days for the babies from over 17 to about 10.

Despite what many doctors would consider a significant improvement, hopefully researchers will find a way to safely withdraw a mother from opiates months before birth so that the newborn babies aren’t subjected to such a harsh situation. Could a longer-term taper from buprenorphine, say over a period of 60 or 90 days, reduce the symptoms enough to not produce a significant risk of miscarriage? Are there any other medications being developed to use instead that will not harm the baby? Hopefully, the answer is yes to one or both of those questions.

The problem doesn’t simply stop after birth, though, as the mother’s addiction still needs to be addressed, for her safety as well as the child’s. There are very few facilities that can provide treatment in a safe place where mothers and newborns can be together, an example of which is mentioned in New England.

Without places like this, which tend to have long waiting lists, most mothers seeking help have family members care for their children while they attend a residential treatment program. After completion of an inpatient facility, it is often advised for them to continue with outpatient treatment and support groups for mothers to assist in strengthening the healthy environment.

Generic Versions of Suboxone Approved for Treating Addicts

Buprenorphine has been a drug that has changed the addiction treatment industry, and up until now the Suboxone variation (buprenorphine mixed with naloxone) was only available by name brand.  However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two generic versions of Suboxone in tablet form.

The initial idea behind the drug was to curb opioid withdrawal symptoms while also helping to prevent overdose.  For many millions of people the drug seemed to work wonders, but with most controlled substances there are challenges and Suboxone has been no exception.

A windfall for drug maker Reckitt Benckiser, sales of Suboxone have totaled more than $1 billion annually on what was a steep increase in users from its approval in 2002.

Prescriptions for the drug have increased from about 300,000 in 2004 to well over 5,000,000 annually now.  According toe the FDA, buprenorphine is 20-30 times stronger than morphine and can produce euphoric effects, so even in the Suboxone form there has become a street market for the drug and patients are staying hooked on it as a maintenance drug as well.

Despite Reckitt Benckiser’s attempt to prevent generic forms of Suboxone from hitting the market, these new drugs are a welcome addition to many patients on a financial level.  As pointed out in a recent article in Forbes magazine,  the wholesale average price of Suboxone film strips is about $117 for a 30-day supply of 2mg doses, while a month of 8mg doses is roughly $211.  Generic pricing on tablets should be much cheaper.

What are your thoughts?  Do you feel that generic versions of Suboxone are better for the treatment community?