Buprenorphine: the answer for opioid addicts trying to quit?

The low-grade opioid treatment plan

Studies show there is a life-saving medication for opioid addicts, but most pharmacies won’t stock it.

According to the FDA, buprenorphine or as it’s sometimes called “bupe” is one of the three approved medicines considered the gold standard for opioid-addiction treatment.

Buprenorphine is a drug that curbs cravings and treats the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid addiction, but there are a number of reasons why pharmacists say they’re hesitant to distribute the drug.

Dr. Chris Eberlein with Emergency Medicine at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse says, “If this drug is given by itself without the counseling and other therapies and other therapies for addiction, it itself can be abused.”

Buprenorphine is a low-grade opioid, and when taken in pill or tablet form, it’s unlikely to cause the same feelings as heroin, but it might if it were dissolved and injected. So instead of using the drug as directed, some patients will sell or abuse it.

Doctors at Gundersen Health System say offering the drug by itself is a concern, but buprenorphine is highly effective with a treatment plan.

“We have providers at Gundersen that prescribe it, but it is in conjunction with fairly intensive cognitive behavioral therapy and outpatient counseling,” says Dr. Eberlein.

According to federal law, doctors must apply for a special waiver from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to prescribe buprenorphine. To get the waiver, a doctor must undergo eight hours of training.

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