|What is Suboxone® and How it Can Help You?
Suboxone is a drug first marketed in the United States in 2004; with over 9 years experience, it has been shown to be very safe and extremely effective in helping patients overcome their addiction to opiate (or narcotic) type drugs.
Video from HBO: Opiate Addiction: A New Medication.
How Can Taking a Pill Help Cure an Addiction to Another Pill?
A very good question and one that has been asked not only by addicted people, but also with much skepticism by many people who are employed by the “Addiction Treatment Industry.” and traditional 12 step-based NA or AA groups who hold a near monopoly on addiction treatment in the United States, and, now, sadly, elsewhere. The same question is also asked by un-informed physicians, who neither understand the disease of addiction properly, and/or dislike addicts in general (in many cases for good reason, as addicts frequently try to feign painful illnesses in order to “hustle” the physician into writing a prescription for opiate medications.) Many of these patients see multiple physicians and utilize multiple pharmacies (“doctor shopping”), at great expense of time and money, and at high legal risk.
The answer to the question lies in the unique pharmacology of Suboxone® (generically known as buprenorphine). The truth is, Suboxone® is not really a new drug. It is itself a type of opiate drug that had been used extensively in Europe, and less so in the U.S. (in injectable form as an analgesic (anti-pain) medication. Its paradoxical usefulness in helping opiate addicted patients overcome their addiction was also recognized years ago, but, the F.D.A., much influenced by groups in the addiction treatment industry, delayed its approval for use to treat opiate addiction until the mid-2000’s.
Finally, a safe and effective medical treatment for opiate addiction
Until President Clinton signed into law the Drug Abuse and Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), it was illegal to treat or maintain an addiction by the prescription of any controlled substances, with one exception – a tightly regulated, difficult to access system of maintenance by government regulated methadone clinics. The latter was problematic, because of the relatively low number of methadone clinics, their location in bad inner city neighborhoods, and the burden of the requirement of daily, or almost daily visits to obtain the medication. Aside from this problem, methadone itself is a problematic drug, which, unlike buprenorphine, did simply substitute addiction to heroin (or other opiate drugs), to another toxic, and in many cases, potentially life threatening drug. In all fairness, methadone is not without its advantages, the main one being the cost (it is very cheap).
Because Suboxone® (buprenorphine) has a unique pharmacologic profile; it has virtually no intoxicating effect. At the same time, it partially stimulates the mu (pronounced “myou”) receptors, in the brain, and elsewhere in the body. It is these mu receptors that the opiate addict seeks to stimulate, normally with full mu agonist drugs such as Vicodin®, Lorcet®, Oxycontin®, Dilaudid®, codeine, heroin, and similar drugs. As such, Suboxone® (buprenorphine) mimics the effect of naturally produced endorphins in the body, a polypeptide associated with natural highs, such as the “runner high,” the daredevil’s high,” the high associated with orgasm, etc.
Both buprenorphine and naturally produced endorphins give one a feeling of well being that is artificially achieved by opiate abusers using full mu agonists. While it is true the feeling of well being achieved by using buprenorphine is also artificial, it can be likened to replacing natural insulin with “artificial” insulin in a diabetic. While the diabetic can work on reducing or even eliminating his disease using natural methods such as weight loss and diet, many opiate addicts similarly need to work on their addiction’s using additional psycho-behavioral therapy.
I have seen many opiate addicts spontaneously go into remission with buprenorphine alone without psycho-behavioral therapy. Contrary to popular advice, most of my patients are able to achieve long term abstinence on Suboxone® alone.
My office is conveniently located in the Los Angeles, CA area.