There is a hidden prescription pain medication epidemic sweeping America. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 2 million Americans in 2014 suffered from opioid addiction and in a recent survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation about 44% of people surveyed knew someone personally addicted to prescription pain meds. Researchers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies have been fiercely looking for alternatives in combating this surge in opiate addiction. One such treatment growing in popularity and use, especially for chronic pain sufferers, is buprenorphine. The newest compound, probuphine, has just  been approved as the first implantable med alternative and begs the question: Could  implantable meds be the future in combating opioid addiction?

First it’s important to know what buprenorphine is and what it’s used for. Buprenorphine is an alternative to methadone as an oral or inject-able opioid pain medication for treating opioid addiction. It is a long-lasting opioid that attacks heroine and morphine receptors without any accompanying “high” experienced with heroine, morphine and other prescription pain meds. Because of the cap in its intoxicating effects, lower oral doses of buprenorphine are less likely to cause an overdose. It has several other benefits as well:

  • It’s less addictive than other opioids.
  • It reduces withdrawal symptoms.
  • It decreases drug cravings.
  • It blocks intoxicating effects from other pain meds while still tackling pain symptoms.

Because of these benefits, the number of patients who slip back into illicit opiate use decreases dramatically. Since buprenorphine’s administered at a doctor’s office rather than a methadone clinic, it’s more accessible to patients and negates the stigma often attached with going to a methadone clinic for treatment.

The implantable version of this drug may offer even more benefits in the fight to overcome opioid addiction than its oral counterpart. Probuphine actually consists of four implants injected just under the skin of your upper arm. Administered in less than 15 minutes, this implantable med lasts for six months. With the inability to suddenly stop treatment offered by an implantable med, there’s less likelihood of a patient suffering relapse. In a recent trial, 86% of patients stayed off more addictive street and prescription opioids when using probuphine, a 14% improvement over its oral med alternative. Implantable meds also offer these added benefits over their oral med alternatives:

  • You can’t sell implants as street drugs like other prescription medications
  • You don’t have to worry about forgetting a dose
  • They’re inaccessible to children

Implantable meds might further benefit chronic pain sufferers who need less harmful and addictive pain medication choices. Probuphine’s not only an effective pain reliever, it requires less medication for pain treatment. In recent studies people have reported relief from addiction symptoms and a decreased need in med strength with probuphine. There’s every indication implantable meds such as probuphine may indeed be the preferable alternative to fighting opioid addiction in the future, as well as offer a healthier alternative in managing chronic pain.