Tag: ORT

Federal Government in Favor of Suboxone

A New Approach to Drug Court

In a move that’s sure to ruffle some feathers, the federal government is throwing its weight around to make Suboxone mandatory in many drug courts.

According to Michael Botticelli, the Director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, the government will begin to cut off federal funding to drug courts that ban Opioid Replacement Therapies. These are things like methadone and Suboxone maintenance.

government suboxone regulations

Botticelli is quoted as saying,

“Part of what we’ve been working on at the federal level is to strengthen our contractual language around those grants…if you are getting federal dollars that you need to make sure that people, one, have access to these medications [and two], that we’re not basically making people go off these medications, particularly as a participant of drug court” (Huffington Post).

Meanwhile, Pamela Hyde, a senior administrator from SAMHSA, is quoted as saying, “We’ve made that clear: If they want our federal dollars, they cannot do that [ban opioid therapy] … We are trying to make it clear that medication-assisted treatment is an appropriate approach to opioids” (Huffington Post).

The White House’s collaboration with SAMHSA is the first step in an expected widespread reform of US drug policy. Targeting drug courts that have banned Suboxone and the like is the beginning of a new chapter in how addiction is treated in America.

Is there a vaccine for heroin addiction?

The Current State of Suboxone

Suboxone, which goes by the chemical name buprenorphine, is a semisynthetic opioid that behaves in interesting ways. It’s both an opioid agonist and antagonist. This means it simultaneously activates and deactivates the brain’s opioid receptors.

In layman’s terms, buprenorphine eliminates cravings, while at the same time preventing withdrawal and the euphoric effects of opioids (if someone tries to relapse while on the drug).

It’s currently tough for addicts to get a prescription for Suboxone. This is based on federal regulation of the drug, which is classified as a Schedule III narcotic. In order to prescribe buprenorphine, doctors must have a special certification. They’re also limited to treating 100 medication assisted therapy patients at a time.

According to a prosecutor from Ohio, who spoke to the Huffington Post, changing Suboxone use in drug courts is more complicated than the federal government updating funding regulations. The prosecutor said,

“…whether we permit Suboxone use or not [by defendants] is irrelevant if no local doctor is willing or able to prescribe it. And our clinicians feel that Suboxone is unlikely to be effective in this community with the lack of integration in the health care system. Even if we were to allow participants [in drug court] to use Suboxone, there would have to be significant structural changes before it would be recommended” (Huffington Post).

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A Shifting Landscape

So, how are these “significant structural changes” going to be made? Well, in some cases, Washington is receiving help from state governments.

drug court

Minnesota State Senator Chris Eaton has picked up the torch of Suboxone reform on a state level. Senator Eaton’s daughter passed away from a drug overdose in 2007. Since then, Eaton has been campaigning to change regulations around Opioid Replacement Therapy, both in drug courts and on a statewide scale.

Further evidence that “significant structural changes” must be made comes from the very way drug courts are funded. In some instances, drug courts may not have to implement new government policies regarding buprenorphine due to the fact that many drug courts are state funded, rather than receiving federal dollars. These courts can choose to implement or ignore federal guidelines at their own discretion.

Will the federal government ever be able to impose new regulations around drug courts and the therapies they allow? That remains unclear. What is clear, though, is the change that does need to be implemented.

It’s no hyperbole to say America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. The federal government is attempting to change that. They’re attempting to shift the tide in the fight against painkillers. And everyone, regardless of politics or personal beliefs, can appreciate that.

Learn more about Opioid Replacement Therapy

Will This Vaccine End Heroin Addiction?

Is There a Heroin Addiction Antidote?

heroin medication

Did you know there’s a vaccine that has the potential to end heroin addiction? I didn’t think so. Most people have no idea this new medication exists. It’s not for lack of scientists trying though.

Kim Janda, of the Scripps Research Institute, and Dr. George Koob, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, have been working tirelessly on an “anti heroin vaccine.” Their efforts paid off in late 2012 when, after decades of addiction vaccine work, they developed a compound that stopped heroin from producing euphoric effects in rats.

That was two years ago. How come this medicine isn’t on the market? How come heroin addicts everywhere don’t have access to it? I’ll explore those questions later. First, though, let’s look at just what this vaccine is and how it works.

Read a firsthand account of heroin withdrawal

The Anti-Heroin Vaccine

According to Time Magazine, this anti heroin drug has enormous potential. They recently talked to Dr. Janda and Dr. Koob about its likely benefits in humans. Janda is quoted as saying, “The heroin one [vaccine] has been our best success in over 25 years of working—it’s the best data we’ve seen” (Time).

Dr. Koob had the following to say, “It’s really dramatic. You can inject a rat with 10 times the dose of heroin that a normal rat [could handle] and they just look at you like nothing happened. It’s extraordinary” (Time).

Sounds pretty good, right? So, how exactly does this heroin addiction vaccine work? How does it keep rats, and hopefully humans, from getting high? Well, the answer’s simpler than you might think.

The vaccine works like a molecular sponge. Once injected, it enters the blood and stays there. Then, when heroin is introduced to the body, it springs into action and “sucks” the heroin up. In this way, heroin never has a chance to cross the blood brain barrier and produce psychoactive effects.

Dr. Janda and Koob’s vaccine is a bit different from more “traditional” addiction medication. Most currently available meds work by filling specific drug receptors in the brain with an inert compound. Then, when the drug is taken, it enters the brain, but can’t produce euphoric effects because it has nothing to bind to.

This new vaccine throws that mold out completely and focuses on preventing the drug from ever reaching the brain. It’s a bold concept developed by Dr. Janda over his decades of addiction vaccine research. In fact, he’s also developed vaccines for meth, cocaine, and date rape drugs.

So, given the effectiveness of this new medicine in rats, why isn’t it being tested in humans?

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Why No Human Trials are Occurring

With a drug this promising, you’d expect it to be tested on humans. However, that seems like a near impossibility to Dr. Janda. ““No pharmaceutical company is going to fund trials for heroin, no way. For meth? No way. Forget about it” (Time).

And what a shame! Here is a way to potentially end heroin addiction – and it simply isn’t being funded properly.

heroin vaccine

Now, that isn’t to say the vaccine is getting no funding. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) allocated just over twenty-seven million dollars to addiction vaccine research and development in 2014. However, the amount that Dr. Jarda and Dr. Koob received wasn’t enough to fund clinical trials in humans.

Again, what a shame! Let’s cross our fingers that one-day a vaccine will be available to help struggling heroin addicts.

Tramadol addiction is deadlier than many people think…

Other Medical Options for Opioid Addiction

There are a number of currently approved medications that help treat heroin addiction. These are things like Naltrexone, Narcan, methadone, and Buprenorphine.

Find a breakdown of currently available options below:

  • Naltrexone
  • This is a long-acting opioid receptor antagonist, or blocker. It does exactly what I described above, flooding opioid receptors with a compound that’s inert. This prevents addicts from receiving any euphoric effects upon taking an opioid drug. Naltrexone also reduces the craving for alcohol in many patients.

  • Narcan
  • This is a fast-acting opioid receptor antagonist. With the generic name Naloxone, Narcan is almost identical to Naltrexone. The only difference between the two is their onset of action. Narcan is fast-acting and primarily used to reverse opioid overdoses, while Naltrexone is used to help prevent addicts from relapsing.

  • Methadone
  • This is a long-acting synthetic opioid. Methadone is used in something called ORT, or Opioid Replacement Therapy. Methadone is usually administered to former heroin or prescription pill addicts. Due to it’s long half-life, one dose fills the brain’s opioid receptors and prevents withdrawal for up to twenty-four hours.

  • Buprenorphine
  • This is an incredibly interesting chemical, as it’s both an opioid antagonist and agonist. This means that it simultaneously actives and deactivates the brain’s opioid receptors. Buprenorphine is a stronger agonist, so it’s used primarily as another form of Opioid Replacement Therapy.

    Narcan is great, but it doesn’t solve America’s heroin problem

    The Toughest Detox: Methadone Withdrawal and Side Effects

    Withdrawal From Methadone Symptoms

    Methadone is a long acting, synthetic opioid. For the non-scientifically inclined among us, that means it’s perfect for something called Opioid Replacement Therapy. This is also known as methadone maintenance.

    Methadone Side Effects

    Some advocates tote methadone as a wonder drug. There’s no shortage of evidence that, for certain people, methadone has helped greatly improve their lives. However, for most addicts, methadone is simply another addiction.

    The complex case of this drug is complicated even further when looking at methadone side effects and symptoms related to withdrawal from methadone. Simply put, methadone has a lot of unintended side effects. It also puts users through an extended, hellish detox.

    So, what are these methadone side effects? How do they impact methadone withdrawal symptoms? Find out below.

    Is harm reduction helping or hurting addicts?

    Methadone Side Effects

    Methadone is a member of the opioid family of drugs. It’s side effects are comparable to other opioids like heroin, oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.

    What are the effects of methadone on the body? That’s a very important question to ask so you know what treatment could entail. Methadone side effects are generally broken down into two categories, serious and not so serious. This first category, not so serious, includes the following:

    • Lightheadedness

    • Nausea and Vomiting

    • General weakness

    • Short Periods of Unconsciousness (nodding out)

    • Constipation

    • Decreased Sex Drive

    • Weight Gain

    • Insomnia

    While none of the above methadone side effects are pleasant, none are incredibly dire either. Then we get to the point that many want to know: What are the serious effects of methadone on the body? These serious considerations are uncomfortable at best and life-threatening at worst.

    • Chest Pain

    • Respiratory Depression

    • Hypotension (dangerously low blood pressure)

    • Pulmonary Edema (fluid in the lungs)

    • Bradycardia (dangerously slow heartbeat)

    • Arrhythmia

    • Low Levels of Potassium and Magnesium in the Blood

    • Cardiac Arrest

    Suffice it to say, nobody wants any of the above happening to them. It’s for these reasons, and many more, that methadone has become such a controversial drug and side effects to methadone have been under scrutiny.

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    Not least among methadone’s side effects is the difficult detox it produces. Methadone withdrawal symptoms have been known to last for up to six months. Before we talk about the length of detox, find common withdrawal from methadone symptoms below.

    What is ORT and why are some people calling it “fake sobriety?”

    Withdrawal from Methadone Symptoms

    Remember, methadone is an opioid. So its withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of heroin, Percocet, and other opioids. These include:

    • Nausea and Vomiting

    • Diarrhea

    • Insomnia

    • Hot and Cold Sweats

    • Restless Leg Syndrome

    • Body Cramping

    • Extreme Depression

    • Extreme Anxiety

    • Irritability

    • Bone Pain

    • Muscle Pain and Cramps

    • Drug Cravings

    Those are the more common symptoms of methadone withdrawal, but what about the length? Well, this is where things get unpleasant. Methadone withdrawal symptoms have been known to last for as long as six months.

    methadone side effects
    Some people claim that the side effects to methadone are so unpleasant because “methadone gets into your bone marrow.” This is a myth. However, methadone is metabolized and stored by the body’s fat cells. In turn, this leads to a longer withdrawal than from other opioids.

    Methadone withdrawal symptoms that last for months are generally less severe than these initial ones. However, insomnia, decreased appetite, shaking, and extreme depression have been known to linger.

    Due to the severity of methadone withdrawal symptoms, it isn’t recommended that anyone stop “cold turkey.” Rather, you should reach out to professionals! Drug and alcohol treatment centers have safely detoxed people from methadone for decades.

    If you or a loved one have experienced any of the above methadone withdrawal symptoms, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today at 1-844-I-CAN-CHANGE or 1-(561)-381-0015. We’re here to help you or your loved one quit drugs for good!

    Opioid overdoses may now be a thing of the past!

    Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part One

    Written By: Fiona Stockard

    What is Harm Reduction?

    The first time a woman approached me on the street and asked if I wanted clean syringes, I thought I was dreaming. Turns out this wasn’t some addict fantasy or dream, rather I’d just been introduced to harm reduction.

    what are needle exchanges?

    Harm reduction is an often-controversial type of treatment. At its most basic, harm reduction aims to provide care, and in some cases rehabilitation, to active addicts.

    To put it another way, harm reduction operates under the belief that reducing the self and societal damage of addiction is of the utmost importance. Guess what? It is!

    Is harm reduction helping or hurting addicts, though? Does it provide much needed support or enable destructive behavior? Let’s explore some common types of harm reduction and see if we can figure out the pros and cons.

    Learn the signs and symptoms of prescription painkiller addiction

    Needle Exchanges

    Needle exchanges are probably the most recognized form of harm reduction. This was my introduction and, I bet, countless other addicts introduction to harm reduction.

    what are opioid replacement therapies?

    Needle exchanges are places where an addict can go and trade in dirty syringes for clean ones. Advocates say this reduces the spread of blood-borne diseases. This is accomplished by providing access to unused syringes (reducing the chance of sharing needles) and by properly disposing of used syringes (reducing the chance an unlucky person might stick themselves with a discarded needle).

    Some needle exchanges are buildings, others are nothing more than vans with a permit and clean needles. The one I went to offered soup, second-hand clothes, and educational classes.

    It’s kind of funny actually – I went from college classes about addiction from a sociological perspective, to needle exchange classes about how to avoid contracting HIV. Black humor was always my favorite!

    Now that we know the pros of needle exchanges, what’re the cons? Well, opponents of needle exchanges argue they perpetuate addiction. They argue that illegal drugs are, well, illegal and needle exchanges allow illegal behavior to continue. However, a 2001 study done by harm reduction advocates reported needle exchanges reduced the spread of HIV in New York City by as much as 70%. That sounds pretty impressive to me!

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    Opioid Replacement Therapies (ORT)

    Opioid Replacement Therapy is another well-known form of harm reduction. It’s often called methadone maintenance. This is when opioid addicts are given access to methadone or buprenorphine, in an effort to wean them off street drugs.

    alternative forms of addiction treatment?

    Before we go any further, there are a few important points to make! To be enrolled in an ORT, you must take drug tests. This ensures participants aren’t abusing heroin, or pain pills, while receiving medication. Also, you go to an ORT clinic to receive medication. Doctors don’t hand out drugs on the street!

    Sometimes, ORT clinics offer health and educational services, though this isn’t always the case. Advocates of Opioid Replacement Therapy say it’s a powerful way to wean addicts off of heroin and other illegal opioids.

    They cite studies which show between 40% and 60% effectiveness of ORT’s, although this number is often debated. After all, it’s hard to determine what qualifies as effectiveness. Is it a year of abstinence from illegal drugs? Is it steady employment? Is it stable housing? Is it all of these things and more?

    Opponents of ORT say it offers addicts a way to beat the system. They say rather than facing the consequences of their actions, addicts are given free drugs. They say ORT’s are too lenient in how they enforce drug screens.

    The truth’s probably somewhere between the two. Opioid Replacement Therapies certainly help a lot of suffering addicts. They also offer a way out of active addiction, as opponents say. Isn’t that the goal, though? Don’t we, as recovering addicts and caring normies, want active addicts to get the help they need?

    What’s cotton fever?

    Does harm reduction help or hurt addicts? Click here to read Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part Two and find out!

    What is ORT?: The New Fake Sobriety

    Written By: Fiona Stockard

    What is Methadone Maintenance?

    methadone maintenance

    Recovery from active addiction is hard. If you’re sober today, you deserve a high-five and pat on the back. Really though, sobriety is hard. In fact, recovery from active addiction is so hard that sometimes abstinence based recovery takes a backseat to other methods. I’m talking about methadone maintenance and the increasingly popular Suboxone maintenance.

    Methadone maintenance is a form of addiction treatment often referred to as ORT, or Opioid Replacement Therapy. When someone receives methadone maintenance, they take regular doses of the synthetic opioid methadone.

    Can this drug really end the opioid overdose epidemic?

    What is Methadone?

    methadone program

    Methadone is one of the longest acting opioids. This makes it hard to abuse. Rather than getting people high, methadone saturates the brain’s opioid receptors slowly, over an extended period of time. This doesn’t mean that methadone is abuse-proof.

    As a tried and true junkie myself, I can vouch that methadone will get you loaded, but only at first. After the first few times taking it, methadone doesn’t you high. Instead, it stops withdrawal symptoms. This is where ORT becomes incredibly beneficial.

    What is Suboxone Maintenance?

    Suboxone maintenance is a new type of Opioid Replacement Therapy. This is when the drug buprenorphine is used instead of methadone.

    The idea behind methadone and Suboxone maintenance is the same. Some addicts simply don’t respond to abstinence-based treatment. For those unlucky few, ORT offers a way to escape the destructive cycle of active addiction.

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    What is Suboxone?

    suboxone maintenance

    Suboxone is a brand name version of the drug buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an interesting chemical. It’s an opioid agonist and an opioid antagonist. This means that it simultaneously activates and deactivates opioid receptors in the brain.

    Much like methadone, rather than getting you high, buprenorphine stops opioid withdrawal from occurring. This makes it a pretty valuable ORT drug.

    The truth about cotton fever

    What are the Pro’s and Con’s of ORT?

    For those addicts who’ve tried repeatedly to get sober, but can’t, ORT is a lifesaver. It offers a way to avoid the illegal lifestyle associated with active addiction. It stops withdrawal symptoms. It allows chronic-relapsers a chance at normality and stability.

    That being said, Suboxone and methadone maintenance are pretty controversial. Opponents of ORT argue they enable addicts. They argue that we shouldn’t be handing drugs to addicts. They argue that it’s not real sobriety.

    Well, they’re right…sort of. It’s not real sobriety. However, for those who just can’t seem to succeed at traditional addiction treatment, ORT is helpful. It offers an “easier, softer way.” It offers a way for them to avoid the more destructive aspects of active addiction. Plus, if someone going through ORT decides they’d like traditional treatment, clinics often help them find it.

    ORT is legal in forty-five states. That’s a lot, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t legal everywhere. While going through ORT, addicts have to go to a clinic to get medication. They’re given regular drug tests and, if they fail, they’re kicked out of the program. They’re also offered support services, like group counseling and twelve-step meetings.

    So, no one is handing out drugs on the street. After being in a methadone program for an extended period of time, addicts may be given “take home” doses. This is only offered to those with clean track records, though.

    There are pro’s and con’s to Suboxone and methadone maintenance. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Is it a helpful tool or a way to enable addicts?

    Learn about other forms of harm reduction

    We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.