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Suboxone / buprenorphine abuse increasing
If you were to stop someone on the street or at the mall and ask, “Do you know what Suboxone is?”, they’d probably give you a blank stare and say, “Not a clue!”
Suboxone is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s “blockbuster” drugs that most of America has never heard of. Suboxone has been making $billions ($1.7 billion last year alone) for its maker, Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals of the U.K. Even though it makes more money than Viagra and Adderall, it’s virtually unknown to the general public.
But Suboxone is the trade name for a compound of two generic drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. These drugs are also money makers in the drug industry. Another brand, Subutex, is just buprenorphine by itself. And if you were to ask around about buprenorphine and naloxone, you’d probably get that same blank, questioning stare from most people.
So why haven’t most Americans heard about Suboxone? Or buprenorphine or naloxone for that matter? And why should we want know about these drugs anyway?
The first question is easy. We haven’t heard about them because they’re used mostly in the specialized treatment of opioid addiction. Buprenorphine was approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is an opioid, but its narcotic and euphoric effects are less than heroin or opioid painkillers. Like methadone, it is prescribed to prevent withdrawal symptoms, while the addict comes off the stronger drug and works towards recovery.
That’s why buprenorphine and naloxone and compounds of the two like Suboxone are well known to addicts. And they’re an integral part of daily life for the addiction treatment community, as well as for law enforcement. If you’re not an opioid addict, or a treatment specialist, or in law enforcement, chances are you won’t hear about them.
Why should we care about these drugs?
The second question, however, is more important: Why should we want to know about them?
That answer is of deadly importance. Suboxone and buprenorphine on its own are being widely abused. Buprenorphine has become a serious player in the illicit narcotic drug underworld. According to the DEA’s national drug testing labs, buprenorphine is in the top three or four most-reported prescription narcotics confiscated by law enforcement across the country. (This includes combination drugs like Suboxone.)
In the Northeastern United States, where oxycodone and OxyContin are miles ahead of all the others, buprenorphine is number two – even ahead of hydrocodone (the biggest killer here in Florida). In the South, buprenorphine is number three and in the Midwest and West it’s number four.
A recent article in the New York Times told the story about a 38-year-old carpenter and rock musician who credits buprenorphine (Suboxone) with his recovery from opioid addiction and an attempted suicide. But the article also detailed the overdose death of a 20-year-old who tried buprenorphine with some friends one night, fell asleep, and never woke up. The young man who provided the buprenorphine is serving a 71-month sentence in a federal prison.
Another article, this one in Louisville’s The Courier-Journal, says prescriptions for Suboxone and its generic equivalents have soared 63 percent in Kentucky in the past year. The problem is that a huge number of those prescriptions are being diverted to the streets. “Suboxone abuse is huge,” a treatment official told the paper.
It’s a similar story across the country. That’s why everyone needs to know more about these drugs. If we see a Suboxone package or buprenorphine bottle where it shouldn’t be – that is, not in a treatment setting – we’ll know to take a closer look at what’s going on with that family member or friend. Suboxone and buprenorphine are not safe drugs to play around with. Not just weekend drug dabblers, but even serious opiate addicts are suffering from Suboxone and buprenorphine abuse.
Naloxone is important because it saves lives
Naloxone, the other Suboxone component, saves lives every day. It interrupts the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, like bringing the dead back to life. It’s in all hospital ERs, it’s carried by emergency responders, and in some cities and states, it’s available to the public.
If there’s an opioid addict or abuser in your family, you must know that the risk of opioid overdose is ever-present. Having a naloxone applicator or syringe handy could save that person’s life.
But an even better idea is to get that friend or family member into recovery before any overdose occurs. Why risk a life when you don’t have to? And if you or someone you love is already in trouble with Suboxone or buprenorphine, Novus is the place to call, because we are experts in handling buprenorphine and suboxone withdrawal and detox.
Call Novus today. We’re here to help.
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