• Jessica Colarossi

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    Jessica Colarossi

    Jessica Colarossi is a science writer for The Brink. She graduated with a BS in journalism from Emerson College in 2016, with focuses on environmental studies and publishing. While a student, she interned at ThinkProgress in Washington, D.C., where she wrote over 30 stories, most of them relating to climate change, coral reefs, and women’s health. Profile

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There are 26 comments on Why Making Buprenorphine Opioid-Based Medication Available without a Prescription Could Save Lives

  1. The current opioid epidemic is tragic, and ameliorating the suffering involved without is daunting. Yet, Medicated Assisted Therapy is not the only way to recover from the hopeless state of mind and body associated with opioid addiction; and as someone who has first hand experience, I can say that suboxone is a much harder and longer detox than heroin. While the medical establishment heavily advocates for the use of suboxone, many in the field of recovery speak to its dangers, notably the continuation of a dependence to opioids with no real protocol for detox. Abstinent based methods, as the article shows, receive incredible stigma from treatment field, and the practitioners prescribing suboxone have huge financial incentives to do so. Also there many opioid users who only use subxone, and the idea that this drug would be not be mis-managed in a over the counter form is laughable. Arguing for safe injection sites, where users are contained and can use their drugs safely is a far better use of policy making time.

    1. As someone who used to be addicted to heroin and morphine, I have this to say concerning your response:

      Bupe withdrawl sucks. Sure. But heroin is MUCH worse. I’ve detoxed from both. Neither are pleasant, but make no mistake, I’d take a bupe detox any day over an H detox.

      As for the “continuation of dependence with no real protocol for detox”, I say people are ALREADY addicted. It’s just a question of, do you want that addiction to dominate and ruin your life, or do you want it to be manageable so that you can live a normal life and be a productive citizen? For those who cannot successfully detox or do not have the will, it’s the clearly superior option. And having no clear protocol for detox is no reason to dismiss it. There’s no real clear protocol for detoxing off heroin either. And at the end of the day if you want to detox there are plenty of guys out there that step you down in your dosage every week. Can’t exactly do that with heroin. I’ve tried.

      Safe injection sites only allow the same super high highs and super low lows. Which will lead to the exact same lifestyle and choices. Suboxone levels out the high highs and the lows lows. It’s not a magic bullet but it’s definitely the best we’ve got.

    2. If they can have a site for injection then why not offer buprenorphine there aswell. This would be another alternative atleast. I know how heroin addicts think. They want that immediate warm rush of heroin going to the brain and nothing else will do. Especially if nothing else is available. It would seem to me that having alternative medicine available is the key to stopping injections. Yeah, it might take time but we need alternatives more now than ever before in the history of America.

    3. Zach, I dont think you were paying attention when you read this article. First, and this has nothing to do with your attention span, you said that, from first hand experience that suboxone was much harder to withdraw from than heroin. In your case maybe it was but I can tell you from many first hand experiences that it can vary tremendously from person to person no matter which opioid it is. Second, the article is specifically talking about “subutex” not “suboxone”. You may or may not know both are buprenorphine but suboxone has an opiate blocker in it known as “naloxone “. Despite what some physicians will say naloxone can cause adverse reactions making it a very different medication than subutex. And last, you said dispensing it otc would be laughable as it would surely be abused. That’s why the writer gave Canada as an example, that dosing is closely monitored by the pharmacist and amounts purchased would be closely monitored. At this point ANYTHING anywhere in the realm of help with this terrible disease would be welcome.

    4. Well said zach and your comment was even pre covid, back when these opioid peddling snakes still pretended that “medication ASSISTED treatment” had any other goal than to monopolize the profits of maintaining addiction. and the no detox protocol became an emergency because god forbid anything interrupts the free flow of their dope and profits. its like a hostage situation to policymakers. They are now lobbying trying to make buprenorphine treatment MANDATORY for people who get a DUI… not even gonna rant about why thats not ok because its obvious to anyone unless they have an agenda

  2. I was at John Hopkins doing an in patient study on buprenorphine. A measured dose administered under the tongue and holding it there for 10 minutes every morning. This went on for 3 months. At 2 and 1/2 months they started reducing the dose. At the end of the 3rd month I was free to leave and was very surprised that I was feeling no withdraw at that time. However, just like any disease, the disease of opiate addiction kicked right back in. The cravings started and with money in my pocket given to me upon release I went straight for my opiate of choice..,(heroin).
    If I could have gone immediately back to get buprenorphine I would have done so. BTW since it was only a study we received no council at all. None, and I think that may have atleast slowed down the thought process of acquiring a replacement opioid. It is a disease ofcourse, but it is of the mind,body, and soul. The bell once rung does not simply unring. I’ve lost many friends and much of my life has been ruined because of the insidious nature of this disease. Had I been able to
    walk inside of a store and get a dose of buprenorphine I would have done just that.. The withdrawal from buprenorphine is different than that of most narcotics and opioids. Infact they are much easier to deal with and in time I may have stopped altogether. However, no treatment facility
    of that type was around and so I went back to using until I could get on a methadone clinic. That was the game changer and atleast I was able to get my life in order. The stigma involved was more than just bad. Once it was known I was on methadone my family treated me like a pariah.
    An outcast, a throw away. Imagine if diabetics were treated so badly. Now I still live my life on methadone but I must do it in secret or I wouldn’t be allowed to live my life like a normal human being. I’m reducing my dosage slowly and will eventually be off of methadone all together. I’m so afraid of what will happen when that day comes.
    I’m not sure I can continue living like everyone else because of the memory of the feeling still bouncing around in my head. I don’t see my life lasting much past that point, but I just don’t know.
    It’s a sinking feeling I live with everyday. I sincerely pray that the young people don’t have to go through the lack of caring like I have. Yet every Friday I go and pick a a weeks worth at a time. My urine has been completely free of any illicit drugs for 3 years now because of the methadone. I know I can’t continue down the path I’m on because of the depression of a lifetime of being stigmatized and in the on going battle that is addiction. Getting free of it just isn’t enough. I just want my family to love me like I remember they once did.
    To those people who are fighting I can only say get on a clinic because the battle is never going to be over even once you get clean. It’s a war not a battle and we the addicted are not meant to come out of it alive and well. Maybe alive will just have to do if you can get free early on.

    1. Maybe that says something about your family. Maybe they have issues that are way worse than what you are battling. I have two sons who I love more than words could ever say. I pray for their health and protection every day but should one of them be in your situation my love for them would only become stronger. This is not a disease that you simply chose to infect yourself with. Just like a smoker doesnt willingly inject himself with cancer cells. Would you stop loving someone because maybe a place they worked gave them a “bipolar disorder”? You’re much stronger than you think. You’re probably the strongest person you know. You’ve been fighting everyday for three years. You’re a survivor

  3. From article: “People with opioid addiction will not feel a euphoria from taking buprenorphine, thereby limiting its potential addictive effects. While people can develop a physical dependence, addiction to buprenorphine is rare.” Absolute nonsense. I am on the front lines and that statement is pure bollocks. Suboxone is the most smuggled drug into prison today where it sells for up to a hundred dollars a strip and the Roy thinks it should be sold over the counter? I work with addicts in treatment and Suboxone is highly addictive, I had one client who was taking such large doses it took him 62 days to finally taper off the withdrawals were so intense. Is Suboxone a tool in the tool kit to address addiction? Yes. But what is proposed in this article is not only wrong, but madness.

    1. Euphoria only occurs in those who are opiate nieve or have already detoxed from their DOC. If there’s a direct continuation from the opioid DOC to bupa, there’s no euphoria. On a side note, I don’t know many people who actually enough the feeling they get from recreational use of bupe. (Dizziness, nausea, headache. In no way comparable to the high you’d get from a full agonist)

      Methadone is an entirely different story though.

    2. They are taking it in prison because they are addicts and need bupe to function. I would love to see bupe legalized and given to anyone in prison that wants it. U think they are getting high on bupe!? That is so ignorant u have no clue!

  4. I went for my monthly doctor appointment where I receive a recurring prescription for subutex. Its helped me greatly with everyday functioning after breaking my neck and the surgeries that followed. I have chronic pain and I’m a otherwise healthy 42 year old man. When it was time to write my script he said “we have a problem, this medication can no longer be prescribed to anyone except pregnant women period”. No plan to taper from it, no options, no nothing except an apology. Now this article is talking about having it available without even having a prescription. What am I missing? Can you look into this matter and see what the deal is because I’m very confused and in a great deal of pain. I was getting Subutex 8mg sublingual tablets, not as an addiction aid, but for chronic pain relief for the last 2 years and now without notice I’m turned away. I’m no addict (nothing against those fighting the good fight), but this seems like a cruel joke to me. Please she’d some light on this subject.

    1. This has been going on for 10 years now.. I remember a doctor telling me the same exact thing back in 2009, but I found another doctor who continued to prescribe it to me for about 3 years around 2012/2013 and he said the same thing the last doctor said only pregnant women are allowed to have this.. I have yet to find a doctor since then to prescribe it.. I cant believe you were on it till just recently? And yes it seems like a cruel joke.. I thought the same thing as I was always prescribed it for pain.. Now I’m almost 40 have had 5 surgeries and btk amputation and can’t get anything for pain.. It feels like they are messing with us.. Trying to push us over the edge!

    2. Subutex is only for pregnant women but SUBOXONE is available thru prescription if you can find a Dr who can and will prescribe it for you. I go to a suboxone clinic to receive my prescription. Good luck!

    3. First your doctor should be immediately reported to the appropriate commission that oversees his license. You shouldn’t have been abruptly taken off this type of medication. What you are saying happened to you doesnt make any sense. Subutex was discontinued a couple of years ago, subutex is just the name of a buprenorphine tablet made by a certain pharmaceutical company. There are several more companies that make buprenorphine. He could have simply switched you to one of those or even to suboxone. I suspect your doctor isn’t telling you the whole story. There are many very shady doctors out there. Your best bet now is to go to an addiction specialist to get subutex seeing as how you are likely legitimately addicted to it now that you’ve been on it for two years.

  5. Hello I live in Gouldsboro Pa and I can’t find a place that has subutex I’ve tried suboxon doesn’t work for me! Why is it so hard to get subutex when I’m trying to get off of opiates I’ve had 10 foot surgeries so the last 15 years I’ve been taking percs buying them off the streets people charge to much or it’s not even a percet! I’ve gone thru withdrawal and it really sucks!also they charge you so much money to get off opiates which is stupid people are trying to get better and they can’t! Does anyone no off a place near Sranton Pa or stroudsburg Pa thanks Nadine

    1. I just wanted to let you know I am from Stroudsburg PA and prescribed subutex. I was prescribed suboxone as first but had really bad side effects. I told my doctor I was trying to have a baby and I got switched to subutex and my side effects went away. But as they didn’t want to switch me cause the doctor said they only prescribe it to pregnant women or I heard if you’re allergic to suboxone then they might switch you but it’s jumping through hoops. Although I pAss all my tests. My doctor did say that after I had the baby they would have to switch me back but I could try the shot Subuclade because it’s a extended release form of subutex. It doesn’t have the blocker in it. anyway. I go to Pyramid in Bartonsville PA. Hope that helps

  6. I am living proof of the power of bupe in its ability for me to get off the hard stuff, then to methadone, then to bupe! It helped save me!

  7. Hello, my name is Chris. I was addicted to opiates for 10 years. I started taking Suboxone 5 years ago. When I first started with my MAT the Suboxone alone gave me major insomnia and major anxiety even panic attacks. So my doctor put me on Klonopin and I haven’t had any problems with relapse. For 5 years my life has been wonderful. These meds saved my life. I never even abused my medications. That in itself is a miracle. Although I was never addicted to benzodiazepines. The problem is that it’s very expensive. Most insurance only pays for a year of MAT and sometimes not at all. I agree with most of what your saying. If it was behind the counter that would be great. I think a lot more people would seek treatment. The only thing I disagree with is worrying about children getting ahold of it because it’s just like any other kind of meds, RX or over the counter that’s easier to get. It’s up to the parents to keep it out of reach. I know of several people that this drug have saved their life’s. But I also know several people who can’t afford it. Some are dead now because they couldn’t afford the treatment. As far as the stigma that goes around addiction a lot of people have died because of it. And that’s a shame. They say addiction is a disease like diabetes, but society doesn’t treat it like that. A lot of people have killed themselves because of the psychological abuse that comes with addiction from other people. Me personally I never talk to a therapist or go to N/A meetings and I have never relapsed while on this medication. I don’t know if that would be the case if I got off it. If I have to be on it the rest of my life so be it. It’s very hard to overdose on and it has a very low chance for respiratory issues. You might have a problem with some opiate addicts just going to the pharmacist to get it because they can’t find heroin or oxycodone on the street. So they will have it not to get sick. As soon as they find more on the street they will go right back to heroin or oxycodone. People like that would need a 30 day rehab to help them. There will be people who would go see a pharmacist just to self medicate. That’s a tough one to overcome. But overall I think it would save a lot of lives. I know I would love that because it would save me a lot of money. To be honest I don’t think they would do that in the United States. But one could be hopeful.

  8. You know I’ve been on buprenorphine for yrs. I’m a dependant addict due to 8000 pain pills after a work related injuries. I trusted them Drs. For 13 yrs….
    Now Drs are charging 200.00 – 300.00 cash. Then pharmacies charge 300-500 for a 28 day supply. Why are Drs charging cash..???? Some pharmacies want 526.00 for a script…. Who can afford this? This is exactly why a great medication has become the new abused. As in people have to get help with this kind of money. Then those who help, want the meds. That keep enough to avoid being deathly sick. Then some of those folks by heroin because it’s cheaper. So now the drug problem is worse. Drs and pharmacies are killing the addicts and keeping families in a spot where they cannot take care of their families. Nobody is trying to make a buck anymore but many bucks. It makes me sick. And before anybody is quick to judge, you don’t know unless your sick with this horrible disease of addiction. They claimed pharmaceuticals are st fault and they are wrong. We need pharmaceutical to keep making the medications and Drs. And pharmacies to stop charging such high prices and taking advantage of the sick. If your not an addict you just don’t know how horrible this is and has become. Free health care. Free medications is not what I’m taking for. But you tell me how 500.00 + a month per person is right in any way at all. That’s more than my rent. Thank you to those who understand this.

  9. why is this so hard to get….I was perscribed it for depression during the day and night meds for sleep. that dr has retired and I can’t find any other doctor to prescribed it that is covered by Medicare Advantage/United insurance or even a low payment without insurance can you help me?

  10. I’ve been looking off ‘n on for four years and finally found a MAT doctor who takes my Ins. after 12 years of Oxycodone and Fentanyl, due to Fentanyl my thyroid and adrenals are trashed and methadone and Suboxone worsen it. I was told that doctors would prescribe it but pharmacies won’t fill it. I called my pharmacy and asked if that were true and she laughed and said, “huh? never heard of that.” Well the doc asked questions and then nervously said, “ok, well, we’re going to try this and see what happens.” Okay? We’ll try and push it through and hopefully there won’t be any problems and you can get your Subutex.

  11. What is the problem with people using it for chronic pain? Why do you think most of these people became addicts in the first place? I had been on fentanyl for years due to a chronic pain condition and felt awful every day. I finally decided to go into treatment and was started on Suboxone. Suboxone gave me my life back. I now take 6 mg a day and am almost pain free and enjoy my life every day. I have no desire to take more than what I need to control my pain. I work full time. I socialize with family and friends. I also lost my access to treatment so have to purchase it illegally. My first physician decided to quit prescribing because of the red tape and bureaucratic nightmare she had to jump through and my next physician retired. My next attempt failed because I apparently wasn’t an addict. The next one was a pain clinic that wanted me to wean off the drug because I apparently was an addict. But purchasing the drug illegally is horrifically expensive and obviously not consistent. Does this tell anyone that what the authors are suggesting is the most reasonable and obvious decision to make? It’s laughable to me that anyone have any concern at all about making a treatments available to those that need it or want it when it is a life changing and life saving drug with absolutely no downside. However I am also a proponent of making most illegal substances legal because those that have the desire will find a way to use or abuse them. Making anything illegal does NOTHING to control their use. It only provides massive profits to law enforcement and illegal drug dealers ending in violent crime. The fact that someone is so backward in their thinking that we should provide safe sights for drug use INSTEAD OF provide easy access to buprenorphine is astonishing. I agree with controlling it by pharmacists so that it is not causing accidental overdosage and unsafe conditions for others but to continue the current practice should be criminal.

  12. I waz a heroin addict You name it I’ve done it I lost everything my son my family my home licence my car my livelihood my dignity. I finally went to subutex clinic and got help I cannot take suboxone because of the naloxone but I do take Subutex 8 mg every day I have taken this for the last 6 years and it saved my life. I have kept a steady job I have had 2 more children get my son back have a wonderful husband have a home land we are about to buy a savings account good credit credit cards a happy normal life which i never thought was possible… This is all because Subutex saved and continues everyday to save my life, How I cannot imagine going back to The life I used to live. I wasent living but I am now and will Continue to take my medication for as long as I need to…. but I do pay at least $350 a month for appointment and medication which is not good.

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