Addiction Experts Battle Stigma Attached to Medication-Assisted Treatment

Opioid addiction treatment experts say although the evidence is clear that medication-assisted treatment is the best way to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic, there is still a stigma attached to using these medications.

Only a small percentage of the more than 4 million people who abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the United States use one of these medications, methadone or buprenorphine, NPR reports. These treatments have been proven to reduce relapses and overdoses, the article notes.

While limited availability of these treatments is an issue, stigma around the use of addiction medications also prevents some people from using them, experts say.

Full story of medication-assisted treatment to tackle the opioid epidemic at drugfree.org

HHS Will Revise Regulations on Prescribing Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will remove some obstacles that limit the ability of doctors to prescribe buprenorphine for patients who are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers, The Huffington Post reports.

Under current regulations, doctors who are certified to prescribe buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone) are allowed to write prescriptions for up to 30 patients initially. After one year, they can request authorization to prescribe up to a maximum of 100 patients. The HHS will develop revisions to the regulations “to provide a balance between expanding the supply of this important treatment, encouraging the use of evidence-based [medication-assisted treatment], and minimizing the risk of drug diversion,” the department said in a press release.

In areas hard hit by opioid addiction, doctors’ buprenorphine treatment slots can fill up quickly, the article notes. One recent study found buprenorphine treatment is unavailable in U.S. counties where more than 30 million people live.

Full story of prescibing Bupreonorphine for opioid addiction at drugfree.org

Giving Addicted Patients Buprenorphine in the ER Works Better Than Referrals: Study

Giving buprenorphine to patients addicted to opioids who are treated in the emergency room is more effective than simply providing them with a referral, a new study finds. Patients given buprenorphine were less likely to need in-patient treatment at a residential facility, HealthDay reports.

Buprenorphine helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The study included 300 people who came to the emergency department (ED) for treatment related to prescription opioid or heroin use. The researchers compared three treatments for opioid addiction. One group received a list of available services, a second group received a motivational consultation and a referral, and the third group received a brief intervention and treatment with buprenorphine, which was continued in primary care.

“The patients who received ED-initiated medication and referral for ongoing treatment in primary care were twice as likely as the others to be engaged in treatment 30 days later,” lead researcher Gail D’Onofrio said in a news release. “They were less likely to use illicit opioids of any kind.”

Full story of Buprenorphine to addictive patients at drugfree.org

Study Comparing Buprenorphine Implants to Suboxone Gets Underway

After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided last year not to approve implantable buprenorphine to treat opioid abuse, researchers have begun a new study to address the agency’s concerns about the product, called Probuphine.

The study will compare Probuphine to buprenorphine/naloxone which is taken under the tongue. Approximately 190 patients are being enrolled in the study at about 20 sites around the country. They will be randomly assigned to receive either an implant of Probuphine in the upper arm, along with placebo tablets under the tongue; or a placebo arm implant, along with buprenorphine/naloxone tablets. Probuphine implants are designed to be effective for at least six months.

The study participants are people treated for opioid dependence who have been stable while taking buprenorphine/naloxone for several months, without using any illicit opioids, says Frank Vocci, Ph.D., co-principal investigator.

Full story of opioid treatment with buprenorphine at drugfree.org