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Report: Columbus, Ohio Suboxone Abuse Trends Report January 2017

Summary and Analysis…

For a state-wide view of the illegal Suboxone use in Ohio see Report: Surveillance of Drug Abuse Trends in the State of Ohio January 2017. This entry contains the full text of the Suboxone section of the Columbus Region report which gives a more localized view of the effects of illegal Suboxone abuse on a community.

The report clearly enumerates problems in the community related to Suboxone clinics, which some reported were “pop-up shops.” Street availability for Suboxone is reported as 10 (out of 10) and the report discusses how Suboxone is diverted from clinics to street use.

Suboxone illicit use includes both sublingual filmstrips and intravenous injection.

Excerpted from Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network

“Suboxone® remains highly available for illicit use in the region. Participants most often reported the current street availability of drug as ‘10’ on a scale of ‘0’ (not available, impossible to get) to ‘10’ (highly available, extremely easy to get); the previous most common score was also ‘10.’ Participants reported: “Yeah, you can get those easily; People that sell pills and heroin have them because [users] go and trade them … their Suboxone® … they get the heroin and pills.

“Community professionals most often reported the current street availability of Suboxone® as ‘10;’ the previous most common score was ‘4-6.’ Treatment providers stated: “Suboxone® clinics are popping up everywhere. You just give [them cash] … it’s just really, really crazy, so anybody can get it now; The trend that I am seeing is, that these people aren’t even offering treatment in these ‘pop-up shops’ [clinics which seem to appear overnight] … that is creating a bigger problem than I think the system was ready for; I think a lot of people are getting it but are not using it …. They are just keeping enough of it to test positive on the day that they are screening … but they are still using heroin … they are just selling the Suboxone®, so you have a lot of people who are buying the Suboxone® on the street.

“Corroborating data indicated that Suboxone® is available for illicit use in the region. A query of the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) for the counties which comprise the Columbus region returned 202 buprenorphine (an ingredient in Suboxone®) cases reported during the past six months, of which 50.5 percent were Franklin County cases (an increase from 163 cases for the previous reporting period, of which 31.9 percent were Franklin County cases).

“Participants reported that the availability of Suboxone® in filmstrip form has increased during the past six months, while the availability in pill form has decreased. A couple of participants remarked on the increasing availability of Suboxone® filmstrip: “I would say it’s gone up. A lot of people are getting them; ‘Cause everyone is on heroin here.” Other participants remarked on the decreased availability of Suboxone® pills: “For a while Subutex® were really popular here ‘cause it don’t have the ‘opiate blocker’ (naloxone) in it; But now they only give it to pregnant woman who were on heroin.

“Treatment providers reported that the availability of Suboxone® overall has increased during the past six months, while law enforcement reported decreased availability. Law enforcement officers remarked: “It’s gone down … it has definitely gone down; It seemed like it has decreased a bit, it’s just a little harder to get now.” The BCI London Crime Lab reported that the numbers of Suboxone® and Subutex® cases it processes have increased during the past six months, while the Columbus Police Crime Lab reported that the numbers of Suboxone® and Subutex® cases it processes have remained the same.

“Reports of current street prices for Suboxone® were consistent among participants with experience buying the drug.

“In addition to obtaining Suboxone® for illicit use on the street from dealers and other users, participants also reported getting the drug through clinics. Participants remarked: “Nine times out of 10, they will sell them (Suboxone®) to buy heroin or trade them to get heroin. And a lot of times, they won’t give you the packet because they have to give them back to the doctor to get more; You have to go to Columbus to get them … all the junkies are going to get them.

“Participants reported that the most common route of administration for illicit use of Suboxone® filmstrips remain sublingual. However, participants also continued to report illicit use of Suboxone® through intravenous injection (aka “shooting”).

“Participants described typical illicit Suboxone® users as white people and someone addicted to opioids. Community professionals described typical illicit users as individuals addicted to opioids. Treatment providers commented: “Anybody who is an opiate addict … I don’t know how else to say that; Anyone ranging from 18 to … haven’t seen as many older lately … 30 or 35 [years of age]; White mostly from what I’ve seen.” A law enforcement officer remarked, “Same as the heroin user.”

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