Suboxone is a drug prescribed to treat an opiate addiction. However, the main ingredient in the drug, an opiate, has led to concerns that patients that take Suboxone may just be trading one addiction for another. Is Suboxone a good treatment choice or simply a means to more drug problems? The answer may depend on who you talk to.
An Effective Addiction Detox
Suboxone was approved by the FDA in 2002 as treatment for opiate addiction. The active ingredient in Suboxone, buprenorphine, is a “partial opioid,” which means it provides the same effect as other opioids, but on a much smaller scale. People who take buprenorphine may experience a slight sensation of pleasure, but that is far from the “high” they would typically experience on opioids like OxyContin and hydrocodone.
Buprenorphine suppresses cravings and withdrawal symptoms opiate addicts usually experience when they try going off their drug. This can help improve the rates of abstinence in those who try to go off their drugs “cold turkey,” which is less than 25% over the course of a year. Some studies have shown success rates with Suboxone use to be between 40-60% over the course of a year.
Creating More Problems
While the figures are compelling, they are not enough to ease concerns over using the drug to treat addiction. There are facts to substantiate those concerns as well. For example, as prescription rates for Suboxone have increased, so have trips to the emergency room for buprenorphine-related problems.
According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a ten-fold increase in emergency room visits related to buprenorphine. In fact, more than half of the 30,000 hospitalizations in 2010 were due to non-medical use of the drug. There is no way to know how many deaths have been caused by buprenorphine, since that drug is not tested for by medical examiners as a general rule.
Black market sales of Suboxone have also increased in recent years. According to a recent report at the New York Village Voice, some drug users might be buying Suboxone off the street to get through the days between their bags of heroin. The drug is even sold on websites like Craigslist by those who are getting prescriptions for Suboxone from their doctors and then selling the excess online.
The truth about Suboxone is multi-faceted – for some, the drug has been an effective way to finally overcome an opiate addiction. For others, the drug has simply meant more addiction in the days and years ahead.