New Jersey-based company Braeburn Pharmaceuticals recently developed an implantable device called probuphine, intended to treat opiate addiction in the same way as Suboxone – without such an extreme potential for abuse. The device is composed of four metal rods, each which slowly seep buprenorphine (a semisynthetic opioid medication) and are no larger than a matchstick. The steady flow of buprenorphine into the bloodstream of the ‘recovering’ addict would ideally help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while potentially eliminating the risk of relapse (therefore diminishing the opiate-overdose related epidemic that has recently swept the nation). An advisory committee for The Food and Drug Administration voted 12 to 5 that the drug be medically approved for widespread use – and the medical community is typically prone to following such advice.
Braeburn Pharmaceuticals Formulates Drug to Help Drug Addicts Not Do Drugs
Because Suboxone has been causing so much controversy throughout recovery communities based on its high potential for abuse, the conception of an implantable device that offers essentially the same exact solution seems kind of… well, stupid. Addicts are overdosing on the alleged ‘miracle’ drug, selling it and trading it for major profit or ‘the real deal’, and withdrawing from prolonged Suboxone abuse in droves. While the drug can play a major role in reducing potentially detrimental issues throughout the withdrawal stage of opiate recovery, it has seemingly become more of an issue than a Godsend.
So rather than prescribe recovering opiate addicts an opioid medication that (duh) they could potentially abuse, let’s stick an identically structured medication under their skin for six months so they cannot easily trade it for painkillers or take more than intended. Try and overdose on that, you sneaky little drug addicts, you!
Here are the issues that this specific innovation presents:
- The implant only lasts for six months.
And then what? No one knows. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process in most cases, so treating it for 6 month intervals raises some concern amongst medical professionals.
- Adjustments are common, and will likely lead to Suboxone use anyways.
Many doctors who prescribe their patients Suboxone will end up adjusting the amount several times before settling on an adequate dosage. Once the probuphine is implanted, that’s it. So doctors assume that they will have to prescribe their implanted patients sublingual Suboxone anyways. So then… wait, sorry, what issue does this solve?
- Experts are concerned that patients with the implant will neglect clinical check-ins.
‘Recovering’ addicts tend to keep on top of their clinical check-ins when taking Suboxone. Oh, how surprising. Doctors fear that if patients have no reason to hit up the office on a regular basis (to get their prescriptions filled), they will stop making an effort to attend regular counseling.
- The nation is desperate, and desperation clouds judgment.
We want answers. Our friends are dying. Our family members our dying. We’re dying, and we want to get better. So, so desperately, sometimes, that we’re willing to listen to whomever tells us they’ve found a better way. Our judgment becomes cloudy with the urgency and the bitter anguish of active addiction. We reach for whatever promises to be fast-acting and efficient.
- We are consistently covering a fatal and deep-rooted epidemic with a fucking Band-Aid.
The national opiate addiction epidemic is not one that can be easily solved with a little glue and some patience. It will take massive, massive amounts of serious, long-term treatment and even larger amounts of unrelenting altruism. And awareness, and preventative programs, and a cessation of the disturbing amounts of overprescribing taking place across the country.
Let’s Fight Fire With Fire, Guys, This Has Worked Historically
It seems somewhat insane to conclude that the overprescribing of opioid analgesic painkillers should be met with an increased prescribing of opioid analgesic painkillers. The number of prescriptions for painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone has skyrocketed from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013. The United States is by far the biggest global consumer, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone1. Overdose deaths due to prescription opioids have nearly quadrupled over the course of the past 20 years. An average of 46 American citizens dies EVERY DAY at the hands of prescription-related overdose. Is this because American backs are getting significantly weaker – drink your goddamn milk, everyone! Or because, perhaps, the pharmaceutical industry has so successfully perfected the art of gluttonous and coldblooded misapplication? “Oh no, you’re addicted to this drug? That’s horrible, we’re so sorry. Here, take this drug, this drug will help you not be addicted to that one.” Drugs on drugs on drugs on drugs – and where does it end?
If Something Is Helping You Not Die, Do It
If you were selling your sick little body for dope a month ago; if you were robbing old women at gunpoint and beating your wife and sticking needles deep into your veins on a daily basis – take the measures you need to take to not do those things. If buprenorphine helps you, take it. Take it for two weeks and then jump headfirst into the real shit. If you keep abusing Suboxone (because, you know, you’re a drug addict), and you feel like having some implanted into your skin will help you not abuse it so much, go for it. By all means. Do I have the right to judge any one individual’s program of recovery? Absolutely not. I’m not saying if this idea appeals to you, you are doing something wrong. All I’m attempting to do is to point out the fact that the American pharmaceutical industry is making an effort to solve the underlying issue of overprescribing with an intensification of national prescribing. It’s counterintuitive. Solving drug abuse by pumping addicts with more drugs is illogical and irresponsible. What government officials may want to seriously consider is the availability of adequate treatment. Those with no insurance and no financial means to attend inpatient drug rehab are at a complete loss. The national opiate epidemic has quickly turned into an appalling opportunity for those with an eye for avarice to profit interminably off of a cyclical and widely misunderstood affliction.
Opiate Addiction Recovery is a Highly Personal Journey
Drugs will never be purely good. Sometimes we need them – we need them to help us get better. Cancer patients need chemotherapy, but they don’t continue chemotherapy for the remainder of their lives in fear that one day the cancer will come back. They eat better and wear sunblock and quit smoking; whatever the case may be. They take care of their physical bodies to ward off the physical illness. As drug addicts, it is our responsibility to take whatever measures we personally need to take in order to thoroughly and authentically kick the habit. In many cases, this means undergoing a comprehensive psychic change. Working hard and helping others and learning to love ourselves pretty unconditionally. It’s difficult to do, but the results are pure and genuine and real and lasting.
What are your thoughts on the new implantable version of buprenorphine? We’re interested to hear your stance on the issue, and to hear about any personal experience you may have with opiate addiction and recovery.