Buprenorphine helps diminish withdrawal symptoms and cravings of individuals with opioid use disorder. But its controversial background makes it difficult to access.
by Anissa Durham, WORDINBLACK.COM, March 29, 2023
(WIB) – Living with opioid use disorder can be debilitating. For Black folks and people of color, accessing treatment can be even more challenging. One of those treatments is buprenorphine, a medication used to help people quit or reduce their use of opiates.
Opioid overdose deaths among Black Americans aged 15-24 increased by 86% between 2019-2020 — the most recent year data is available for — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With Black Americans experiencing the highest increase in opioid overdose deaths, medications like buprenorphine are critical to prevent death.
But, because of stigma, price, and required monitoring, getting a filled prescription for this drug has become increasingly more difficult.
Buprenorphine is not a new medication. It was approved for clinical use in 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration. The medication helps diminish the effects of physical dependency — like withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Due to buprenorphine being an opioid, there is a stigma attached to replacing one drug with another.
One of the main medications used to treat opioid use disorders is Suboxone, the brand name of a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Some people think you can overdose on Suboxone just as easily as other opioids.
But, according to Harvard Medical School, that’s not true. Suboxone acts as a partial opiate receptor agonist, meaning there is a limit to how much the opioid receptors can be activated by the medication.
Michelle Sproule, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer of Scottsdale Recovery Center, an Arizona drug, alcohol, and addiction rehab says “there’s so many benefits to these medications.” It reduces the rates of overdose deaths, overdoses, and overall dependence on opioids.
Word In Black reported last summer that overall drug overdose deaths increased by 30% in the U.S. from 2019 to 2020. But the CDC found that the death rate for those in the Black community increased by 44% in the same two years. Sproule says medications like buprenorphine can “save their life,” but a few factors have made it difficult for individuals to access them.
“Access to quality treatment, access to quality providers can be dictated so much by financial resources, their insurance resources, their local community,” Sproule says.
In 2020, the average cost of buprenorphine without insurance was $246.11 and drops to $96.74 with insurance. Meaning, for one prescription, people with opioid use disorders would pay about $8 a day without insurance. For those with insurance, depending on the type of provider, folks would pay $4 a day for the medication.
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Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.