Opioid addiction is a devastating problem in the United States that needs to be addressed with more effective treatment and better access to care. A new solution has been introduced that could help people receive the treatment they need for heroin addiction.
A few toothpick-sized implants that steadily administer the treatment medication known as buprenorphine into the upper arm could help people that are dealing with a serious addiction to opioids. Buprenorphine has been the most promising type of treatment for heroin addiction that was recently introduced to help reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that make it so difficult to quit using opiates.
Medications using buprenorphine have proven to be more effective and less addictive than traditional treatments like methadone. Implants administering the medication could make it easier to reduce the overwhelming numbers of Americans addicted to heroin.
Taking Buprenorphine for Addiction
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has escalated quickly with rates of overdose death due to painkillers and heroin quadrupling in just eight years. Presently, there are 2.1 million Americans that are struggling with addictions to prescription opioids like Oxycodone and 400,000 are dependent on heroin.
Buprenorphine has been introduced as a treatment for these types of addictions because it is an opioid derivative that works by binding the same opioid receptors as heroin without producing the high. While the medication itself is helpful in getting patients off of heroin or painkillers, the organization that it requires to take buprenorphine every day is often too tough for people coping with severe issues associated with their addiction.
The psychological and behavioral problems that go alongside heroin addiction can make it nearly impossible for them to stick to a medical regimen on a daily basis. Medication in the form of pills can have other problems as well including taking higher doses than prescribed or even selling it on the black market.
The Benefits of an Implant
Buprenorphine in the form of an implant called Probuphine can help resolve some of the issues associated with receiving treatment. The implant administers medication steadily and consistently without the patient worrying about having to take a pill every day.
In the past, buprenorphine in the form of Suboxone was effective at treating addiction for the first twelve weeks but after patients quit taking the medication the majority of them relapsed. One of the major problems with addicts taking these pills is that they can control when and how many of them they take.
This downfall of an otherwise useful drug like buprenorphine could be resolved with patients having a Proneura implant in their body. Studies using the new system found that 88 percent of patients with the implant tested negative for the presence of illicit opioids. People that have used the implant are praising the system as a way for addicts to get over some of the hurdles of treatment including the stigma of taking medication and the difficulty in remembering to take the pill. The implant allows patients to focus on their recovery and learning to live their life without engaging in substance abuse.
Some are concerned that there have not been large enough studies to prove the efficacy of the implant as a solution for heroin addiction and that there might be risks that go along with the treatment. Many in the field of addiction, though, are optimistic about the concept of the implant and are hopeful that this new avenue of providing patients with an already effective type of medication could prove important in combating the opioid epidemic. As more evidence is gathered concerning the effectiveness of the implant, the more likely it will be that patients can have access to the system for treatment.
Photo Credit: Bigstockphoto