By providing buprenorphine around the clock to people in crisis — people who may never otherwise seek medical care — these E.R.s are doing their best to ensure a rare opportunity isn’t lost.

It’s questionable whether this is good medicine, but it’s certainly profitable for the manufacturers of buprenorphine to dispense it in the ED. The drug has similar warnings to Methadone.

Buprenorphine increases the risk of addiction, abuse, and misuse. Severe, life-threatening or fatal respiratory depression can occur with use. Stopping the medication results in opioid withdrawal. Researchers found buprenorphine showed continued improvement in psychosocial functioning over time but not necessarily discontinuation of illicit drug use.

Should this treatment be prescribed widely by emergency departments? Is substituting an opioid addiction for another opioid addiction treatment?

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