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Medicine designed to get people off drugs being abused

Suboxone being sold on streets

By Kentucky Health News

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 7, 2014) — “Suboxone, a popular and highly touted medicine designed to get people off opioids such as painkillers and heroin, is increasingly being abused, sold on the streets and inappropriately prescribed, according to doctors and drug control and law enforcement officials,” Laura Ungar reports for the Courier-Journal. “The drug combines buprenorphine, an opioid, and naloxone, which counters the effects of an overdose. Prescriptions for Suboxone and its generic equivalent rose 63 percent in Kentucky between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of this year, to 113,713 from 69,640.”

prescription drugsOne reason is the state’s crackdown on pain clinics that were little more than pill mills. “In lieu of that, now people are opening Suboxone clinics. Many are cash-only,” Leanne Diakov, general counsel for the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, told Ungar. “We have seen some doctors in trouble with licenses or finances opening these clinics.” Ungar found that 14 percent, or 45, of the 330 Kentucky physicians authorized to prescribe buprenorphine “have a history of discipline by the medical board.”

Attorney General Jack Conway told Ungar that suboxone abuse “is certainly on my radar, but I’ve kind of been careful to tread lightly. Some people desperately need Suboxone. I view it as a treatment of last resort . . . not a magic pill for addiction.” Doctors told Ungar that some addicts self-medicate with Suboxone and use it to stave off withdrawal symptoms “when they have nowhere else to turn,” she writes.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.