Doctor and Patients Defend Suboxone

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Following a raid last week at an office of a doctor prescribing Suboxone to painkiller addicts, a colleague and his patients spoke in support of Suboxone as a treatment option as an addiction treatment.

Agents from the US Department of Health and Human Services raided a doctor’s clinic in Gate City, Va. as part of a year-long investigation into the clinic. The clinic prescribes Suboxone to patients addicted to prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone. Dr. Robert Reeves, a Johnson City physician treating opiate addicts, said such an event casts Suboxone in a negative light, causing the community to have a biased opinion on addiction treatment. In reality, it has provided hope for addicts hoping to kick their drug habit.

Suboxone’s active ingredients are buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is classified as a partial opioid agonist, meaning it has a ceiling effect. After reaching a dose of 32mg, the body cannot derive an added effect from it. Naloxone is added to deter addicts from melting the drug and injecting it as it would put them into an immediate withdrawal state. A sublingual form is currently being produced by Reckitt-Benckiser. Dr. Reeves stated that the film strips may decrease illegal diversion because unlike the tablets, it cannot be crushed and snorted.

Prior to Suboxone, opiate addicts only had Methadone as a treatment option. Patients who choose Methadone treatment must travel to approve clinics to avail of the medication. Thus, Suboxone is a valuable weapon in a physician’s arsenal to fight opiate addiction.

Several patients of Dr. Reeves defended Suboxone as it had helped them live better lives. While most of his patients have been on Suboxone for at least 36 months, Dr. Reeves allows his patients to reduce their dosage as time progresses while he provides coaching and counseling. One patient stated that he is down to less than 20% of his original dose after being on Suboxone for several years. He is hopeful to be completely off the drug by early 2012.

Other patients who seek consult at Dr. Reeves’ clinic also have legitimate pain problems and became more dependent on opiates for pain control. A patient asserted that Suboxone helped him to manage his pain without the addicting effect.

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