A new surgical implant is poised to be a game changer for people recovering from opioid addiction.


An alternative to daily medication, the device was created to address multiple issues that prove to be roadblocks to recovery for many in a drug rehab program. The treatment, called Probuphine, is delivered via four small rods that are placed inside the arm. The implants release Buprenorphine constantly for six months.


A risk considered by doctors who use medication to treat an addicted person is the potential for abuse or “diversion,” — the patient selling the medication. To combat abuse and diversion, opioid addiction medication, including Buprenorphine in pill form, Naltrexone and Methadone, are dispensed on a daily basis, but this comes at a cost. Having to pick up a medication every day increases the likelihood that a person recovering from addiction will fall out of treatment. Even if a patient is in a residential addiction recovery center, a pill still has the potential for abuse or improper use.


During clinical trials, there were no cases of a patient attempting to remove the medication to sell. The implant also addresses the risk that a drug may be accidentally ingested by a child and erases the awkwardness that may arise when co-workers or friend sees a patient who has recently left an addiction treatment program popping a pill.


Medication is a common solution to the withdrawal symptoms experienced by many who find sobriety in drug rehab. The medicine quells much of the urge and begins rolling back changes in the brain caused by drug abuse and addiction. Some medication even reproduces the feeling of the drug the patient is addicted to, which is why drug withdrawal medication is tightly controlled and is often sought by drug abusers.


While medication is diligently doled out by professionals to addicted persons in recovery at drug rehab facilities, many patients have difficulty staying on course taking their medication every day. The implant eliminates the risk that a person in recovery will fall back into drug abuse because he or she forgot to take a pill or could not access medication. The clinical study found the risk of relapse with the implanted medication was 12 percent, less than half the risk that a patient who took the pill version of the medication would relapse.  

One obstacle to the implant becoming the new standard treatment for addiction is the cost. Drugmaker Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, NPR reported, will likely price the medication at a point that is competitive with injectable treatments used to treat addiction — which can cost as much as $1,000 per month. The cost, critics say, may price some people out of receiving the drug rehab treatment.
The development is largely driven by opioid addiction in the U.S. reaching epidemic proportions. The American Society of Addiction Medicine found that the number of deaths attributed to heroin overdose nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013. Four in five heroin addicts started out abusing prescription painkillers. If you or somebody you know is addicted to opioids or opiates, use the powerful search tools at MentalHealthSeries.com. Enter “opiate” or “heroin” in the keyword box to find an addiction treatment center near you that specializes in treating this form of addiction.