A new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed a major problem with prescribing practices in several states throughout the country. It was discovered that many patients who were receiving prescriptions for buprenorphine to treat their opioid addictions were also receiving prescriptions for prescription painkillers at the same time.
According to information from eleven states, two in five patients that were using buprenorphine were also being prescribed prescription painkillers. Additionally, it was discovered that 66% of people who had completed treatment were also being prescribed painkillers within 12 months.
This shocking discovery only serves to highlight the obvious need for better prescribing practices, prescription drug monitoring programs and more education for doctors. “Policymakers may believe that people treated for opioid addiction are cured, but people with substance abuse disorders have a lifelong vulnerability, even if they are not actively using. Our findings highlight the importance of stable, ongoing care for these patients,” commented Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, study author.
Many experts agree with Dr. Alexander. Treatment has been found to be one of the most effective ways to overcome an addiction to opiates. However, many people struggle to find a treatment facility that is right for them. This is made even more difficult by the potential changes being implemented surrounding the Affordable Care Act, which helped increase access to treatment for more people.
There are many successful ways of treating opioid addiction, and using burprenorphine (Suboxone) as an aid to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings has proven to have multiple benefits. What this study shows is that the healthcare system in America has a long way to go to help fix the opioid crisis that appears to be continuing to escalate.
It used to be common that someone enrolled in a drug and alcohol treatment facility would undergo significant amounts of counseling, but receive no medication for their disease. This was especially true for those people who were coming off of heroin. Many treatment facilities have a longstanding policy against prescribing medication like Suboxone or methadone for heroin withdrawal and treatment. According to several reports, the Federal government is attempting to change this by requesting that facilities who receive public funds begin providing heroin addicts with medication as part of the withdrawal and treatment process.
Heroin withdrawal is arguably one of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult for addicts to abstain from using the drug for extended amounts of time. The painful, flu-like symptoms make it difficult for a person to transition from the addiction into recovery. Vomiting, insomnia, body aches and severe cravings combine to make heroin one of the most difficult drugs to come off of safely. Oftentimes a heroin withdrawal can last several weeks, making it tough for therapists and counselors to commence with the processes needed for effective treatment and sobriety.
Methadone and Suboxone were created as an answer to the heroin withdrawals and as long-term replacement therapy. Both drugs are administered to addicts that are trying to achieve sobriety. The drugs block the opiate receptors in the brain and prevent the addict from feeling the painful withdrawal symptoms. When administered by a doctor and monitored by medical staff, the drugs can be effective in helping someone make it through the first few weeks of sobriety. However, methadone and Suboxone are dangerous if not taken under medical supervision, and even it is people can still remain dependent on those synthetic opioids and require further treatment if they want to get off all drugs.
Throughout the years, addicts have found ways to abuse the drugs, making treatment providers weary of advocating the medications as part of a successful treatment protocol. The Federal government aims to change this. By suggesting that treatment facilities that receive Federal aid begin to prescribe the medications as part of their withdrawal procedure, the government is acknowledging that heroin abuse is severe enough that medication is warranted. However, intense monitoring of the drugs would be necessary so as to ensure that addicts are not abusing the drugs and prolonging their addictions.