|Over the past decade we have seen an alarming
rise in the misuse of opiates, both in prescription form, such as oxycontin,
percocet, morphine, vicodin, as well as street drugs like heroin.
Here in Oregon, with the closure of many methadone clinics there are
fewer options for treatment of opiate abuse than ever before. To fill
this void, The American Society of Addiction Medicine has worked diligently
to find alternative, effective treatments for opiate addiction and
in October 2002 the drug, Buprenorphine, received FDA approval
for this purpose.
In clinical studies, Buprenorphine has proven effective in minimizing
the extremely painful side effects of opiate withdrawal without
patients feeling either euphoria or sedation. It is also virtually
impossible to overdose on Buprenorphine.
Since June 2003, staff physicians at Serenity Lane have been treating
opiate-addicted patients with Buprenorphine. Since then, hundreds
of patients have taken advantage of this new therapy. Opiate addiction
is a complex disorder, and while this new therapy does indeed make
initial treatment more tolerable, there is still need to treat all
aspects of the addiction. To be considered for this treatment, patients
must be motivated and are required to participate in our residential
program, with follow up in outpatient and recovery support.
Dr. Ronald Schwerzler, Serenity Lane's medical director, was one of the authors of an article about Buprenorphine:
A recent clinical breakthrough in the treatment of opiate addiction
has been the development of Buprenorphine for the treatment of
opiate withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine is a synthetic medication
that has both opiate and "anti-opiate" properties. When
administered to the patient undergoing opiate withdrawal symptoms,
it rapidly reduces and often eliminates those symptoms within
an hour. Previously, withdrawal meant 3 - 6 days of severe muscle
aching and spasm, profuse sweating, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
With Buprenorphine these symptoms are essentially avoided, while
the patient is gradually tapered on decreasing doses of the medication
over a period of one to several weeks (depending on such variables
as the duration and intensity of the patient's previous dependency,
physical health, and degree of motivation).
Buprenorphine's opiate-like properties allow it to be substituted
for the patient's previous addictive opiate medication(s), while
itself providing essentially no sedation, euphoria or other 'dangerously
reinforcing' effects. In addition, larger amounts can be taken
(even overdoses) with no increased effect and no reduction or
loss of consciousness. (In this respect it is distinctly safer
than methadone, which has historically been used in similar settings.)
Notably, while Buprenorphine is being used, no other opiate will
have any effect -- oxycontin, morphine, even heroin cannot replace
it from nerve receptors, thus minimizing, to some degree, the
risk of sudden or impulsive return to opiate use.
Finally, one great advantage of this medication in the treatment
setting concerns use of the patient's time. Instead of 3 - 6 days
bedridden in anguish, patients instead can almost immediately
begin attending recovery groups and practicing the non-pharmacologic
techniques of stretching, deep-breathing, visualization and meditation,
which become dramatically more effective in the slowly detoxing,
non-sedated, newly motivated patient.
One of the obstacles to patients seeking treatment for opiate
addiction, has been the debilitating withdrawal - the prospect
of which is so abhorrent that the addict would rather break the
law and seek the drug than commit to a treatment program. Now
that we can offer such patients a significantly more comfortable,
manageable detox experience, we are confident we'll see better
recovery rates and continuing success stories with this group.
For more information on Serenity Lane's treatment options for opiate
addiction please contact our staff physician: Ronald
Schwerzler, M.D. at:
Treatment Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Dependencies
616 East 16th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 687-1110