Experts Are Seeking New Treatment Options Fight Opioid Addiction
The U.S. opioid epidemic is in full swing and the problem is escalating. Millions of Americans are addiction to opioids and there has been an exponential increase in the number of opioid related deaths in recent years.
More than 64,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2016 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that approximately sixty-six percent of these deaths involved an opioid. To counteract the problem of opioid addiction, experts are seeking new treatment options in 2018.
With The Opioid Epidemic In Full Swing, Drastic Measures Are Needed
In order to bring an end to the opioid epidemic, the country has to take drastic measures. One of the ways we can stop the opioid epidemic is to prevent opioid addiction in the first place. This happens through educating the public about opioid addiction and making sure people are well-informed about the dangers of opioids. Prevention also largely rests on the shoulders of prescribing doctors who need to implement better practices when prescribing opioids.
When prevention isn’t possible, we have to treat one addict at a time with effective addiction treatment services. Every addict who gets into recovery from opioid addiction is a victory. We also have to make life-saving medications available that will prevent opioid overdose. By saving one life at a time, we will see the staggering number of opioid-related deaths come down.
In this blog post, we will talk about what the future holds for opioid addiction treatment.
An Opioid Vaccine Is Currently In The Works
In December 2017, scientists from the military’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research announced that they have developed a heroin vaccine that can block the euphoric effects of opioids in the brain in rats without interfering with opioid replacement therapies used to treat addiction. If the vaccine is approved to be administered in people, it could be a gamechanger in the treatment of opioid addiction.
“By eliciting antibodies that bind with heroin in the blood, the vaccine aims to block the euphoria and addictive effects,” said Dr. Gary Matyas, Chief of Adjuvants and Formulations for the U.S. Military Research Program (MHRP) at Walter Reed. “We hope to give people a window so they can overcome their addiction.”
The research, which was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, showed that the vaccine also produced antibodies against other commonly misused opioids, including oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, and oxymorphone. It also shows potential to prevent overdose.
Like the smart opioids currently being developed, we will not see the vaccine available on the U.S. market for some time.
A New Neurological Device Can Greatly Reduce Opioid Withdrawal
In November 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave clearance for a neurological device that shows real promise for reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Developed by Innovative Health Solutions, Inc., the NSS-2 BRIDGE device implants microneedle arrays near nerve endings found in and around the ear and delivers electrical impulses to four cranial and occipital nerves to help reduce withdrawal symptoms by 84.6 percent in as little as 60 minutes. The NSS-2 BRIDGE device will be available with a prescription.
“Our vision is for every person in withdrawal, preparing for withdrawal, or suffering from post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), to have access to this technology,” said Brian Carrico, president of Innovative Health Solutions. “Significantly reducing withdrawal symptoms lessens the dependency on opioids, allows for easier transition to Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) and ultimately works as another tool to combat the opioid epidemic facing our country.”
He added, “The technology gives those suffering from opioid addiction an easier transition to all forms of MAT. The device helps take away the fear of withdrawal and leads to a much higher success rate.”
The device could be available on the market within the next year.
Probuphine – The Six-Month Buprenorphine Implant Is Gaining Popularity
Probuphine was approved by the FDA in May of 2016 and the implant is becoming more popular among prescribing doctors who treat opioid addiction. The implant works by inserting four matchstick-size rods under the skin, which slowly release Buprenorphine for a period of six months. It is then removed and replaced.
This means opioid addicts do not have to remember to take their daily prescription of Buprenorphine and they can safely withdraw from opioids. It also means those who are prescribed Buprenorphine pills cannot sell their medication on the street to other opioid addicts.
“This is just the starting point for us to continue to fight for the cause of patients with opioid addiction,” said Behshad Sheldon, CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Probuphine.
Governmental Agencies Are Implementing Plans To Counteract The Opioid Epidemic
In addition to the many scientists, researchers, and private companies working hard to combat opioid addiction, governmental agencies are also hard at work. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The National Institute on Health (NIH), the FDA, and the CDC are working together to execute a five-point Opioid Strategy.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the comprehensive, evidence-based Opioid Strategy aims to:
- “Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services to prevent the health, social, and economic consequences associated with opioid addiction and to enable individuals to achieve long-term recovery;
- “Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs to ensure the broad provision of these drugs to people likely to experience or respond to an overdose, with a particular focus on targeting high-risk populations;
- “Strengthen public health data reporting and collection to improve the timeliness and specificity of data and to inform a real-time public health response as the epidemic evolves;
- “Support cutting-edge research that advances our understanding of pain and addiction, leads to the development of new treatments, and identifies effective public health interventions to reduce opioid-related health harms; and
- “Advance the practice of pain management to enable access to high-quality, evidence-based pain care that reduces the burden of pain for individuals, families, and society while also reducing the inappropriate use of opioids and opioid-related harms.”
To bring these goals to fruition, the governmental agencies previously mentioned are working to secure hundreds of millions of dollars from Congress to aid in fighting the opioid epidemic.
“We are committed to this fight and will continue to advance a multi-pronged strategy, never forgetting that behind all the statistics are individuals, families, and communities who are being torn apart each day, said Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute on Health (NIH) said. “Our guiding vision must be to improve the lives of all Americans who have been touched by this crisis. That will be the true measure of our success.”