Everyone should be aware by now of the crippling public health issue that is an addiction to opioids. Still, there is no general consensus on how to best approach it. Policymakers can’t seem to agree on a common path forward, healthcare professionals have polarized opinions when it comes to the most appropriate way to treat it, while addiction specialists and treatment centers have their own ideas on what works and what doesn’t. This leaves those suffering from substance abuse stranded and confused as to which solution to seek.
In the past, abstinence-only models such as the infamous 12 steps program were the golden standard. Now, thanks to years and years of research and scientific evidence, one conclusion can be clearly drawn: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every person will experience addiction to opioids differently; the causes and risk factors will be inherently different, thus making their unique case in need of a highly customized treatment pathway.
One option is most frowned upon: addressing opioid addiction with medication-assisted treatment, using medicines such as Suboxone. Unfortunately, moral stigmatization remains entrenched in how most people perceive addiction in general, and when the solution would appear to be more drugs, the bias gets deepened.
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However, it’s of uttermost importance to distinguish the difference and understand the intricacies that such a treatment solution entails. It’s not sending someone off with a bag of opioids and hoping for results. On the contrary, the treatment is administered in a medical setting under professional supervision, following a thorough investigation and medical history analysis.
How does it work?
The mechanism in its essence is quite simple: the effects of opioid withdrawal are more powerful than many can imagine. Once the brain and body are hooked on these drugs, tolerance increases and more and more of the drug is needed to satisfy the craving. Even with the bare minimum of information around this, it is clear quitting cold turkey seems unlikely to be successful and without doubt, the symptoms will be painful and unbearable.
Subxone treatment can hit the brakes on that cycle. Supervised treatment can help avoid misuse and substantially reduce the risk of relapse as it eliminates the surfacing of withdrawal symptoms. Science has made great strides in showing the effectiveness of this approach, with some studies pointing out a reduction rate of 50% among patients. Medication can also be paired with different forms of therapy to equip people with coping mechanisms and achieve even greater outcomes.
To some people, this sounds like positive progress. To others, it’s merely replacing one drug with another, thus not a solution. It’s important to rephrase and rethink the problem. For any other chronic condition, treating it with medication is the standard.
So why is addiction different?
It’s because the majority still don’t see it as a disease. The preconception is that addiction comes with some kind of moral failure. Those people who are addicted somehow brought that onto themselves, in a voluntary and conscious way. This could not be more wrong.
Surprisingly, it has also been shown that this negative sentiment is also common among people who overcame addiction and are now sober. They strongly believe that if they could do it without the help of medication, others could just as well. There is also the problem of the widening trust gap between people and health care systems. Those same pharmaceutical companies and doctors who brought these opioids to them in the first place are now dangling a shiny, brand new drug in their faces.
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a product made of buprenorphine and naloxone. As a long-acting agonist, it helps avoid withdrawal symptoms and cravings, without posing overdose risks and intoxication. According to 2017 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines, the main compound – buprenorphine, is also the treatment of choice for opioid-dependent pregnant women and has been shown to have a better safety profile than methadone, another addiction treatment drug. However, the major point that is stressed over and over again is that this treatment must be carefully prescribed, taking into consideration a variety of aspects to avoid doing more harm than good. For instance, healthcare professionals must also think about aspects which relate to a patient’s lifestyle and circumstances – do they have a stable and safe living environment? Do their entourage and daily activities pose risks of further worsening the situation? Is their mental health status strong enough to take such a treatment on board? This is why before embarking on such a journey, every single aspect must be discussed, analyzed and well-thought through.
Suboxone allows people battling an addiction to return back to their normal lives quicker and safer, so why should this be stigmatized?
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