Addiction Treatment With a Dark Side

Summary and Analysis

The dark side of addiction encompasses the addiction itself, all the illegal and legal plethora associated with drugs including needles, pills, liquids and even strips. These are the physical objects. The human component, the person that struggles with the addiction, is often the most overlooked in the battle of how to handle this modern war.

Suboxone, which contains the opioid buprenorphine, was at first touted as a "miracle" drug that would alleviate all of the old problems of methadone treatments. It was the first drug that inspired federal legislative changes that allowed certified doctors to prescribe an opioid to treat addiction to another opioid. The change meant no more daily trips to clinics to pick up a dose, instead patients could visit a sanctioned doctor to get a prescription. The US government was so taken with the idea of a miracle cure that it made an agreement with the British company that created Suboxone to finance clinical trials and to award patent protection to the company after the patent expired. 

This is how the story began. It's ending is still to be decided by addiction doctors, emergency room physicians, social workers, lawyers, judges and legislatures that must balance the possibility that the "miracle cure" could become another abused street drug.

 

Excerpted from The New York Times

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For Shawn Schneider, a carpenter and rock musician, the descent into addiction began one Wisconsin winter with a fall from a rooftop construction site onto the frozen ground below. As the potent pain pills prescribed for his injuries became his obsessive focus, he lost everything: his band, his job, his wife, his will to live.

Mr. Schneider was staying in his parents’ basement when he washed down 40 sleeping pills with NyQuil and beer. His father heard him gasping and intervened, a reprieve that led Mr. Schneider into rehab, not his first program, but the one where he discovered buprenorphine, a substitute opioid used to treat opioid addiction.

In the two years since, by taking his “bupe” twice daily and meeting periodically with the prescribing psychiatrist, Mr. Schneider, 38, has rebounded. He is sober, remarried, employed building houses, half of a new acoustic duo and one of the many addicts who creditbuprenorphine, sold mostly in a compound called Suboxone, with saving their lives.

Suboxone did not save Miles Malone, 20; it killed him. In 2010, a friend texted Mr. Malone an invitation to use the drug recreationally — “we can do the suboxins as soon as I give them to u, iight, dude?” — and he died that night in South Berwick, Me., of buprenorphine poisoning. The friend, Shawn Verrill, was sentenced this summer to 71 months in prison.