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Breaking the Stigma of Opioid addiction treatments

Medications

During our coverage of the Opioid crisis we've talked extensively about overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone - sold under the brand name Narcan - as well as the counseling people can get in treatment and recovery centers. But there's another tool medical professionals use to get people well: prescribed medicine.

Dr. Melissa Weimer with St. Peter's Health Partners says there are three FDA approved medications for treating opioid withdrawl, something people will experience immediately after being revived with Narcan.

Those drugs are Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone. The first two are actually opioids, while Naltrexone - also the newest medication - is an opioid blocker. Dr. Weimer says because Methadone & Buprenorphine are opioids, they too come with a stigma.

"People will say 'oh you're just exchanging one drug for another' and that's part of the stigma that actually keeps people away from this life saving medication," Weimer said. "What's inherently different about them is they're very long acting so someone doesn't take them and feel euphoria typically" she added.

Unfortunately, Dr. Weimer estimates only about 10-30% of patients with the disorder are ever offered medication, something she says education can help fix. While not every patient will need or want to take medication to get better, Dr. Weimer says the ability to offer it gives them another way to tackle the opioid crisis.

"The Naloxone is very important but if we don't take the next step, we actually failed them still."

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