You wouldn’t think it, considering the amount of time, money, and media attention spent on “bad plants” lately, but opioids and opioid addiction are a growing epidemic worldwide. They take nearly 29,000 lives just in the US every year. Cannabis has been shown to effectively treat many people for this terrible addiction, but rather than go with the obvious alternative, pharmaceutical companies are selling a new product to help with the problem their drugs started.
Another new drug to inject
If you are addicted to pills or injecting drugs into yourself, then inject this one to stop. Great logic there, right? Well, that is the premise of the latest drug meant to wean addicts off opioids.
Probuphine works like long-term birth control. Four one-inch rods are implanted under the skin in the upper arm. For six months, they slowly release a drug into the bloodstream that travels to the brain and blocks the receptors triggered by prescription pain pills or heroin. It is designed to block the craving to get high without patients having to frequent clinics regularly, or take medications like Suboxone, which they might forget.
It is designed to block the craving to get high without patients having to frequent clinics regularly, or take medications like Suboxone, which they might forget.
How this may help beat opioid addiction
Dr. Richard Rosenthal of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, who oversaw the clinical trials, said:
A new weapon in our armament to fight drug addiction. The risk for relapse is reduced because you’re not going to miss a dose you’re always going to have your opioid receptors covered by the medication.
He says the treatment could help the over half million people currently suffering from opioid addiction.
What blocking receptors does
By blocking the receptors, any actions that these systems normally perform could be affected. That includes pain management, social attachment, and vital life processes including blood pressure and respiration. The body’s dopamine “reward” system is based on opioid receptors.
Often, people recovering from heroin and opioid addiction cannot use even medically necessary pain management drugs.
Bad news & good news
While opioid receptor blockers can block the physical craving for the drugs, the psychological need is still there. Taking the drugs while on the blocker medication can still lead to overdose and death.
The implants also come with a hefty cost of $5,000 every six months. Ouch, ten grand a year doesn’t sound very affordable, but as a pharmaceutical, the potential for insurance to cover the cost might make a difference. Who can put a price on healing, anyway? Oh wait, that is what the pharmaceutical industry does.
The good news is that opioid blockers do not affect the cannabinoid receptors, meaning that a person can still feel the effects of cannabis while on this treatment. With a comprehensive program of blockers, cannabis substitution, and psychological treatment for addiction, this therapy has the potential to be of great value. Like implant birth control, the biggest selling point is that it won’t be a medication you forget to take.
Do you think that cannabis should be a part of comprehensive drug treatment programs for opioid addicton? Would you rather use a plant or an implant to treat your problems? Share your voice on social media or in the comments below.