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From Injections To Edibles, The Fight Against Opioid Addiction Is A Multi-Pronged Approach

From Injections To Edibles, The Fight Against Opioid Addiction Is A Multi-Pronged Approach

You can’t treat the opioid crisis without treating the underlying issue: chronic pain. How states like Pennsylvania solve both will determine how long the opioid crisis will persist in communities across the country.

130. That’s the average number of Americans who die from opioid overdoses a day.

In Pennsylvania, the opioid crisis has been even worse than the national average. A 2018 report prepared by the DEA Philadelphia Division and the University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania tabulates 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths in the state in 2017. With a rate of 43 deaths per 100,000, Pennsylvania far exceeds the national average of 22 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 the same year.

It wasn’t always this way. As I wrote last year, the opioid problem began in 1986 when doctors and health organizations began advocating for their use to treat chronic pain.

Over the course of thirty years, things got worse. In 2017, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced five priorities for addressing the opioid crisis:

  1. Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  2. Promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs
  3. Strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
  4. Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  5. Advancing better practices for pain management

However, the national crisis with pain continues on, unabated. The move away from opioids leaves a vacuum in the treatment of chronic pain. As Politico recently reported, even though insurers are encouraging doctors to prescribe fewer opioids, “That still leaves the crucial question of how to treat an estimated 25 million Americans living with chronic pain.”

The opioid crisis and the chronic pain crisis are intimately linked. Since opioids have been the go-to choice to address pain for decades, patients and doctors need to learn new strategies to reduce opioid dependency and treat chronic pain.

Attempts by legislators in Pennsylvania to stem the opioid crisis in 2016 was met with backlash from chronic pain sufferers. A proposed law would have limited the prescription of opioids to seven days, creating a huge hurdle for chronic pain sufferers who had no other viable alternative at the time.

Adopting A Multi-Pronged Approach To Treating Opioid Abuse And Chronic Pain

For many patients reliant on opioids, the most pressing concern is to overcome the addiction. The second item on the HHS list is a direct call to research and promote both known and experimental opioid overdose-reversing drugs. Forward-thinking companies are pushing forward with initiatives in a race to develop the most efficacious solutions.

Just recently, BioCorRx Inc. (OTC: BICX), a developer and provider of advanced solutions in the treatment of alcohol and opioid addictions, launched a program in the city of Philadelphia, PA to treat several individuals suffering from opioid and alcohol use disorders. Additionally, the company was recently awarded a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant of around $5.7 Million to further their research and pursue FDA approval through a study on their implant delivery system.

The new study will use the drug Naltrexone, a non-addictive opioid antagonist used for the treatment of alcohol and opioid use disorders. It can reduce or eliminate cravings for alcohol and opioids, as well as block the dangerous effects of opioid use such as overdose, as commonly seen with heroin.

The other most commonly used drug, Naloxone (otherwise known as Narcan), is a fast-acting treatment meant to reverse the effects of acute overdoses. Though they sound the same, Naloxone gets the bulk of the attention because it is used to save people’s lives in an emergency. In Pennsylvania, the state is handing out Naloxone for free as part of its attempt to curb the crisis.

However, long-term solutions are needed to address both the opioid and the pain crisis in the state.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse already cites Naltrexone as an opioid-treatment drug, but suggests it and others like it remain highly underutilized. “Fewer than half of private-sector treatment programs offer medications for opioid use disorders, and of patients in those programs who might benefit, only a third actually receive it,” they reported.

In the case of this study, the BioCorRx Recovery Program being deployed includes the use of a naltrexone implant. These specifically formulated, biodegradable pellets are typically inserted beneath the skin in the lower abdominal area. And because Naltrexone works more slowly than Naloxone, it is used more effectively as an aid for preventing relapses.

Brady Granier, president, CEO and director of BioCorRx, stated: “Our goal with these studies and pilot programs is to show the medical community and general public that BioCorRx offers one of the most effective and safest treatment solutions for opioid use disorder. This crisis is real and the American people who are suffering need more solutions now. We are proud to have recently received a $5.6 million grant to help obtain FDA approval for our naltrexone implant so that we can better reach countless families suffering from opioid use disorder soon.”

Medical Marijuana In The Fight

This is all happening when big strides in the opioid treatment potential of medical marijuana are being made. Last year, I reported The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s findings that states with medical cannabis see a 25 percent reduction in average opioid overdose mortality rates.

Although it may be too early to predict how MMJ used as a sole substitute treatment for opiate dependence is being perceived by medical staff in PA, however. Speaking with Pennsylvania-based Dr. John Metcalf of Medical Marijuana Specialists, part of the problem is medical specialists who have no understanding of the endocannabinoid system which is “essential to understanding medical marijuana!”

“From my personal experiences and anecdotal feedback, medical marijuana is truly a gift,” Metcalf told me. From his experience in Pennsylvania, “Roughly 40 percent of patients get off opiates and another 40 percent reduce their Opiate use but 95 percent of patients have a better quality and functioning in life. The majority, 60-75 percent of patients seek it for chronic pain with awesome results.”

Past studies have been difficult to conduct thanks to federal prohibition, but as WebMd reports, some studies have come to significant conclusions about the relationship between pain, opioids, and chronic pain.

In another study, researchers polled nearly 3,000 medical marijuana patients, including about a third who said they had used opioid pain medicines in the past 6 months. Most said the marijuana provided relief equal to their other medications, but without the side effects. While 97 percent said they were able to lower the amount of opioids they took if they also took marijuana, 81 percent said that taking marijuana alone was more effective than using both marijuana and opioids.

The long-term success of the fight against opioid abuse needs to address the long-term struggles with both addiction and pain. Products like Naltrexone and medical marijuana may play an integral part in that fight.

Disclaimer: Andre Bourque has no financial interest or positions in the aforementioned companies. This information is for educational purposes and does not constitute financial and/or legal advice.

Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo by Javier Hasse.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

Posted-In: contributor OpioidsCannabis Markets


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