Opioid addiction, especially among illegal drug users, is a significant problem in our country today. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 2.1 million Americans (and more than 16 million people worldwide) suffer from opioid use disorder, resulting in more than 120,000 deaths worldwide annually.
One of the most effective ways to treat opioid addiction is to use a medication called Suboxone®. This drug offers fewer side effects and is less addictive than other opioids that the patient may be taking.
How Opioids Work
Opioids are a class of drugs that work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors in the brain and other areas of the body. In doing so, opioids block the body’s pain signals from being sent to the brain, thus masking such pain. They also release large amounts of dopamine throughout the body, which can make people feel relaxed and happy—and can be addictive.
Popular opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), oxymorphone (Opana), morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and heroin. Because of their potency and addictive properties, opioids are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as controlled substances. Possession of controlled substances without a medical prescription is illegal.
Risks of Opioid Use
Many providers, including those at Valley Medical, prescribe opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. Opioid use, even when prescribed by a medical provider, carries with it some risk.
When not properly managed, the use of opioids can result in respiratory distress, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. In addition, patients who use opioids may, over time, develop a tolerance to the drug. This could result in needing higher doses to maintain the same level of pain release, which can also increase the risk of opioid dependence and addiction.
Opioid withdrawal becomes an issue for those patients trying to quit opioid use. If an individual suddenly stops using an opioid, they can suffer withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches, and sweating. Discontinuing opioid use, then, requires a gradual tapering of the drug’s intake.
Fighting Opioid Addiction with Buprenorphine and Suboxone®
One of the most effective ways to fight opioid abuse is with another opioid that has fewer side effects and is less addictive. At Valley Medical and Wellness, we often prescribe the drug Suboxone® to patients suffering from opioid addiction. This drug contains the opioid buprenorphine combined with naloxone, a drug typically used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if the medication is abused.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that produces far fewer and less aggressive side effects than full opioid agonists such as methadone and heroin. On its own, buprenorphine diminishes the effects of physical dependency, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Combined with naloxone in Suboxone®, it further reduces the risk of opioid tolerance.
Valley Medical and Wellness is one of the few clinics in Minnesota to offer Suboxone® treatment for opioid addiction. Patients who have switched to Suboxone® from other opioids often see impressive results and improved quality of life. It’s one of the most effective ways for patients to beat their addiction to other types of opioids.