Buprenorphine Overseas

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“The history of the treatment of narcotic withdrawal is a long and dishonorable one. The trail is strewn with cures enthusiastically received and then quietly discarded when they turned out to be relatively ineffective or even worse, productive of greater morbidity and mortality… Any claim for a new method should be put forward modestly and viewed with skepticism until amply documented by careful experimental procedures.” Herbert Kleber (1982)

A couple of interesting articles about buprenorphine overseas hit my inbox recently.

First, from Finland [emphasis mine]:

Young women are at particular risk of death from illicit drug use, according to preliminary results from a major ongoing study by the University of Eastern Finland’s public health department.

The study confirms that drug users have a higher mortality rate than others of the same age, and that this is higher among male users in general. However it finds that women under the age of 25 form an exception. Their risk of death may be as much as 20 times higher than that of non-drug using women in their age group.

The findings are part of a epidemiologic project being carried out in partnership with Helsinki’s Deaconess Institute, Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare and others. It is a follow-up study of about 5,000 illegal drug users in the Helsinki region who sought treatment at the Deaconess Institute between 1998 and 2008.

10% mortality rate

By the end of 2010, about 500 drug users, or roughly one in 10, had died.

. . .

Relatively few violent ends

Among men, drug-related deaths are more evenly distributed among various age groups. The most common causes are heart attacks and infection. Researchers were surprised that violence seemed to play a marginal role in drug users’ deaths.

Of the approximately 500 deaths, only 14 were attributed to violence – far fewer than from traffic accidents, for instance.

. . .

Subutex and amphetamines most common

Among those seeking help at the Deaconess Institute, buprenorphine has become the most abused drug in the past decade. Marketed for use in heroin treatment, this powerful painkiller is also sold as a street drug. It’s better known under the brand name Subutex.

Next, in the Czech Republic, buprenorphine addiction has become enough of a problem that they are doing research on using methadone and buprenorphine-naloxone to treat buprenorphine addiction. (Yes, you read that right.)

Is this what we want for our family, neighbors, friends, co-workers and country?

1 Comment

Filed under Controversies, Harm Reduction, Policy, Research, Treatment

One response to “Buprenorphine Overseas

  1. DC

    Using Bupe to cure a Bupe addiction? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Why not just give oxy to treat oxy addicts, and heroin to heroin addicts. That’s not treatment, it’s just feeding the addiction. There would be very few addicts who could control their dosage.