As rates of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids continue to skyrocket in the Washington, D.C., area, the FDA recently approved an implant that can help opioid addicts kick their habits.
A man named Chris told News4 at the height of his addiction he was taking the equivalent of 80 Percocet a day.
“Started when I was 17,” he said. “I had knee surgery. I loved it when I was 17. I was hooked. It just turned into a habit, and I couldn't stop. OxyContin, anything I could get my hands on.”
The knee injury started him on a path to a crippling addiction.
“It was great at first,” he said. “It numbed everything, made a long, boring day go by quicker, but turned into a nightmare trying to feed the habit.”
Opioids attach to receptors in the brain and target the brain's rewards system by flooding the brain circuitry with dopamine, which produces a euphoric feeling. Too much opioid use erodes the natural release of dopamine, making the user physically crave more opioids to stay high.
“I'd have to dose in the middle of the night,” Chris said. “It was pretty bad. I was spending a ton of money on it.”
When he decided he wanted to get clean, he found relief in the medicine Suboxone, which contains buprenorphine. He took it daily to block the effects of opioids and withdrawal.
Last year the FDA approved Probuphine, which is implanted under the skin and delivers a low dose of buprenorphine over a six-month span so the patient doesn’t have to worry about taking medicine every day.
“You put it in your arm and you feel great,” Chris said. “Feel like I'm not on anything.”
He said it's helped him kick his habit.
“You don't want to be dependent on drugs,” he said. “Nobody does.”
The company that makes Probuphine said more than 2,000 providers can prescribe or implant the medicine.