This E.R. Treats Opioid Addiction on Demand

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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Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

3 thoughts on “This E.R. Treats Opioid Addiction on Demand

  1. Angela as a stopgap solution I see no problem but we all know long term treatment is a must for these individuals.

    1. Rudy, I been down this path in medicine before. Buprenorphine is not a new drug and neither is methadone. The recent decline in drug use among teens is not because of treatment but rather education. This drug being heavily pushed reminds me of the big push to over treat pain that created this epidemic. Did you know OxyContin was once touted as preferred treatment to prevent addiction? Purdue Pharma, the drug maker, said you could not become addicted to OxyContin.

      Doctors were discouraged from prescribing it multiple times a day despite the painkilling effect not lasting the 24 hours, instead, Purdue insisted it was prescribed once a day and no limit to increasing the dose to control pain. Fast forward to over 200K deaths from overdoses, indirectly caused by misrepresenting the drug to physicians.

  2. You bring up a good point about the opioid crisis. It could lead to a replacement addiction. Besides, part of that crisis involved users OD-ing on prescribed painkillers and some over-the-counter drugs besides the usual suspects of heroin, Fentanyl, meth, etc. As one might guess what I’m going to say next given our previous talks on your articles, it’s bugged me how this is considered a “health issue”. If one wants to help opioid addicts, then that’s fine, but they need to help all addicts of different kinds instead of criminalizing everything. Watching the Heroin(e) documentary did not allay those concerns, to say the least, but all my opinions on that matter are on the article on Iridium Eye where I reviewed that documentary. Okay, enough self-promotion here. Haha! It’s just crazy how the media has framed the issue. Even Truth, yes, the same organization who’s made those anti-smoking PSAs have been coming out with TV commercials about opioids which I thought I would never see in my lifetime, but there you go.

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