Chemical Intended to Help Those Addicted to Painkillers Lands on the Streets

Narconon Spokesperson says Suboxone Is Just One More Drug Following a Path that Drugs Designed to Handle Substance Abuse Traditionally Follow

A December 2011 story out of Eastern Pennsylvania tells us that out of 100 people who were recently busted for drug trafficking, a substantial number of arrests involved prescription drugs rather than street drugs. That in itself is not surprising, but one particular prescription drug stood out, Suboxone. It is used by doctors to treat addiction to opiate drugs. “Suboxone is a schedule III drug. It is an addictive narcotic and now we know it is available on the street, despite controls and cautions of the FDA,” says Bobby Wiggins, senior Drug Prevention Specialist at Narconon International.

The story is similar to what happened with Methadone once it was released as the miracle solution for heroin addiction decades ago. Methadone clinics sprang up everywhere. In some states fleets of mobile methadone clinics began criss-crossing cities and counties to save addicts from heroin addiction. At first Methadone was a hero. Its claim to fame was that people addicted to illegal heroin no longer would have to engage in criminal activity, because they could get a longer lasting, legal fix at their local methadone clinic.

Today, even though still dispensed from clinics, Methadone is also a dangerous street drug responsible for more overdoses than traditional street drugs and capable of causing more brutal withdrawal symptoms than the drugs it was designed to supplant.

Suboxone has become a medication of choice because doctors need a solution for record numbers of patients hooked on painkillers they or other doctors administered. Suboxone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 as an addiction-treatment medication. It’s a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. It’s an opioid blocker that works to discourage its user’s desire to abuse heroin and oxycodone-based medications like Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin and the like.

Suboxone (brand name) and its generic versions are prescribed by primary care physicians. That means patients take a quantity of the drug home in either tablet or film form. It also means that it can easily be abused.

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All Suboxone illegally trafficked today is procured directly from doctors who are specially certified to dispense it. Physicians apply for a special waiver to prescribe it, with approved applicants limited to 30 patients in their first year and no more than 100 patients total. Patients seeking addiction treatment may travel a substantial distance to meet with a doctor approved for a buprenorphine (Suboxone) waiver. There are 732 doctors approved to prescribe buprenorphine in Pennsylvania alone, multiply that by fifty states, and the potential supply of drugs is substantial.

What happens when Suboxone is on the street? It is the perfect stopgap between fixes for a heroin addict not able to get his hands on his drug of choice, since it prevents the withdrawal symptoms from kicking in. Authorities worry that the drug’s illegal use is supporting addicts, and it is also putting youth at risk who nab supplies from family medicine cabinets in pursuit of the high it gives.

In upstate New York last spring, ten indictments of Buffalo and Niagara Falls residents were for operating a prescription drug and cocaine distribution ring following a year-long multi-agency investigation. The focus was on the sale and re-sale of prescription drugs, such as Suboxone and Lortab, another narcotic pain reliever administered by doctors.

Individuals were coached in how to exaggerate their opiate addiction symptoms to get their prescribing doctors to give them maximum Suboxone prescriptions, which were then sold on the street. Medicaid Pharmacy Benefits covered the costs of most of the prescription drugs purchased.

Once Suboxone was a carefully monitored narcotic sanctioned by the FDA. The status of the drug is changing even as more and more doctors prescribe it. Criminal activity is now part and parcel of its story. It is also known to be addictive with its own very severe withdrawal symptoms. Overdoses, especially in combination with other drugs, can and do occur. We do not know yet if it will gain a rap sheet as long as that of Methadone. “Ultimately, trading one addiction for another is not a solution. The person who has become addicted to pain medication needs help to fight the addiction, not another drug to take its place,” says Wiggins.

For information on how the Narconon Program successfully handles pain killer addiction without the use of any drugs, contact 800-775 8750.

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