We are on the verge of a medical breakthrough when it comes to treating opioid addiction.
ARS Technica is reporting that the FDA has recently approved a new form of treatment for opioid treatment in the form of implant technology. The new methodology would insert “matchstick-like” implants under the skin which would release buprenorphine continuously over a period of months.
Buprenorphine has been approved for the treatment of opioid dependency since 2002 and works through the same neuro-receptors which are activated by opioids. It is often used in conjunction with Naltrexone, which negates the “high” one feels when under the influence of opioids and is often used as an anti-overdose medication.
While implants for medical treatments are nothing new- diabetic insulin pumps, pacemakers, birth control, etc- this particular implant, Probuphine, was developed by the drug companies Braeburn Pharmaceuticals and Titan Pharmaceuticals and has garnered both praise and criticism.
Supporters of the potentially life-saving treatment note that it is much easier to administer buprenorphine via the implant than the traditional pill method. It’s a safeguarded method of medically assisted detoxification- unlike with pills where people can relapse by simply discontinuing the medication.
Additionally, people in recovery no longer need to worry about remembering where their medication is or when to take it, as Probuphine lasts up to six months and provides medication in time-released increments. Above all else, it gives people the peace of mind necessary to work on the mental side of recovery.
However, there are some drawbacks: namely the semi-permanent nature of the treatment. Adjusting medication levels is difficult, making it mostly effective for people who only need low dosages of buprenorphine for relatively short periods of time. For people receiving long-term treatment exceeding the six month limit of the implant, repeated surgeries would be required- sometimes over the span of the patient’s entire life. As such, it is not effective in all cases.
With the nation currently experiencing substance abuse at epidemic levels, companies are scrambling to discover new and effective ways to treat addiction; the Probuphine implant could be our next step toward ending the epidemic as a whole.