Opioid addiction costs the United States about $480 billion annually. Oxycodone ranks among the ten most common drugs related to death in 19 major U.S. cities. Close to four million Americans report using heroin at least one time in their lifetime. Opioids are an extremely dangerous class of drugs, and their potential for addiction claims many lives.
Opioids are a class of drugs that includes any derivative of the opium poppy, which is also known as an opiate, and synthetic substances that mimic their actions. Opiates include morphine, codeine, and thebaine. Semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and hydromorphone. Fentanyl, methadone, buprenorphine and naloxone are some common purely synthetic opioids.
Opioid addiction is extremely hard to break, as most have severe withdrawal symptoms. Depending on frequency of use, general dosage, and day of last abuse, users may experience different levels of the following symptoms: nausea, fever, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and cold sweats. The combination of both psychological and physical pains creates a harrowing detox process, with many users returning to opioid abuse to curb the discomfort. Fortunately there are drugs on the market that can significantly ease the pain.
Buprenorphine is a relatively new substance on the opioid substitution therapy market. Approved in 2002 by the FDA for outpatient use, buprenorphine is a short-acting, partial opioid agonist. As a partial agonist, it only binds to some of the opioid receptors in the brain, thus not producing full euphoric effects like some other opioids. However, as buprenorphine has a very strong binding potential, it holds onto those receptors very tightly. When other opioids are consumed, they often have trouble finding very many receptors to bind to, and the user is not able to achieve a high. Essentially, while someone is taking buprenorphine, they may not be able to get high from other opioids.
Suboxone and Subutex
Buprenorphine is distributed in the United States as two different pills for addiction therapy. The first pill, Subutex, lists only buprenorphine as its main ingredient. Suboxone, the other pill, contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist which when taken in excess prevents the user from achieving a high from any opioid. Naloxone is included in order to deter the patient from taking more than prescribed, as a large dose of naloxone induces rapid withdrawal. Buprenorphine and naloxone together create an ideal combination for aiding in opioid withdrawal. The buprenorphine binds tightly to the opioid receptors, preventing withdrawal symptoms and easing cravings, while the naloxone prevents users from abusing the pills without feeling negative consequences.
In addition to Suboxone, it has been proven to be highly effective for the individual to go through drug treatment. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs offer group and individual therapy, encouragement of healthy activities, and possible participation in twelve step support groups. There are also transitional living houses available for those who want further help in reintegrating into society.