Understanding Fentanyl's Role in the Opioid Crisis and Using Suboxone/Subutex for Treatment

The origins of the opioid crisis date back to the early 1990s, a time when physicians were prescribing powerful painkillers excessively across the U.S. In fact, prescriptions for opioids, like codeine and oxycodone, were more common than prescriptions for antibiotics.

As opioid use increased, drug manufacturers continually assured the public that users weren’t likely to develop addictions. However, as many as 30% of opioid users began to misuse their prescriptions, instead of taking them as directed by their doctor.

In the years following the start of the epidemic, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental death in the country, many of them directly linked to the use of fentanyl.

How fentanyl came into play

Fentanyl is one of the strongest opioids, being nearly 100 times more powerful than morphine and other drugs in the opioid class. It takes just two milligrams of the drug to trigger a fatal overdose. That amount is equal to about seven grains of table salt.

In many who misused fentanyl, death happened within seconds of taking too much. Those who overdosed didn’t even have enough time for the drug to metabolize in their systems.

Heroin is perhaps the most prominent reason why fentanyl contributed so strongly to the opioid epidemic. When opioid drug abusers could no longer afford or get access to fentanyl, they turned to abusing heroin. With an increased interest and demand for heroin, illegal drug manufacturers realized how they could make fentanyl inexpensively. By lacing their heroin supply with fentanyl, they created an even more powerful drug. Heroin users often had no idea they were also being exposed to fentanyl and became highly susceptible to overdosing or dying, making fentanyl a primary factor in the nationwide epidemic.  

Today, fentanyl is as cheap or cheaper to manufacture than heroin. Because of this, Dr. Sherman is finding patients who are buying fentanyl instead of heroin. With urine and blood toxicology, he is finding fentanyl in every illicit substance, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin.  If you or a person close to you is buying drugs off the streets, chances are the drug is laced with fentanyl.

Why Suboxone is effective in opioid treatment

Suboxone is a medication often used to successfully detox from an opioid addiction. It comes in a film or tablet form designed to be dissolved under the tongue. The medication includes a partial agonist, known as buprenorphine, and naloxone, an antagonist, that binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Naloxone is commonly injected during an active overdose to bring a person back from unconsciousness. Adding naloxone to Suboxone is intended to prevent those with opioid drug addiction from injecting the medication.   

Dr. Sherman offers Suboxone or Subutex as part of a treatment plan for opioid addiction because it effectively detoxes opioids from your system, while protecting you from the serious withdrawal effects of the drug.

Subutex, another buprenorphine, is also a treatment option for opioid dependence. Subutex does not have the naloxone component. Dr. Sherman has found that patients will inject themselves with either Subutex or Suboxone, in an attempt to get high.  Because Suboxone or Subutex is not significantly mood altering, the actual high a person achieves is the ritual of putting a needle into the vein. More intensive therapy is required if this occurs. The medication itself does not produce significant mood altering properties.

The importance of professional treatment

Under the careful guidance of Dr. Sherman, it is possible to successfully overcome an opioid addiction. By using Suboxone or Subutex medications in conjunction with individual, group, or family therapy, you can beat your addiction and change your life. Throughout your entire recovery journey, services will be in place to help you feel emotionally supported, and to ensure you won’t develop an addiction to withdrawal medications.  Dr. Sherman and his staff will guide and support you and your family. There may be bumps and curves along the way, but Dr. Sherman and his team are here to assist you.

If you are struggling with an addiction to opioids or you know someone who is, we encourage you to seek help now. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Sherman online or by calling the office at 727-202-4409, to learn more about your treatment options.

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