Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Scams Flood the Streets with Suboxone

It was bound to happen – when an addictive drug as potent as Suboxone was made available and promoted heavily it was only a matter of time that enterprising people would start scams and make money.  Over the last year, we have been hearing more and more about how easy it is to get Suboxone on the streets, and how often people are now abusing it.  Last week, a patient who we detoxed off Suboxone revealed to us just how bad the situation is in his home town in West Va.  He also told us about the latest scam – a scam involving both unscrupulous doctors and people posing as patients.  

Suboxone is a powerful and highly addictive drug.  Its characteristics include the fact that it lasts a very long time, it binds tightly to the opiate receptors and it doesn’t turn the switch on fully.  As a substitute drug, it is pretty ideal.  It only needs to be taken once a day.  It reduces cravings for short-acting opiates like Heroin and OxyContin.  If patients use other opiates, they don’t get much effect because the Suboxone is already bound to the receptor.  And lastly, it doesn’t give much of a high because it only turns the switch on partially.

Unfortunately, these same characteristics make it a real problem.  It lasts such a long time that withdrawal off of it takes forever.  Patients suffer for months with acute withdrawal and even longer with post-acute withdrawal.  Almost all of them go back to using short-acting opiates during the time they try to taper off the Suboxone.  This is why our Naltrexone Implant works so well for these patients – it seems to speed up the post-acute withdrawal and it forces them to get through it.

There are probably a lot of scams going on but the one I heard about last week involved unscrupulous doctors and unscrupulous patients.  Apparently, there are groups of people traveling to Pittsburgh for the day, and going to physicians who are licensed to prescribe Suboxone.  After they pay their inflated fee, they receive a medical visit, and are then prescribed 8mg Suboxone tablets – three daily.  They leave with a script for 90 pills – worth about $2700 ($30 per pill).  I am sure some patients are hitting up more than one physician in a day.

The physician part of the scam is that the physician lets the patient know that they can get a refill of 90 tablets every month.  No visit is necessary - all they have to do is call on the phone for a couple of minutes and pay $250 with a visa card!  Not a bad way to make another $2700.

It is all quite legal.  Suboxone was regulated lightly on purpose.  Last year I spoke with an official at SAMSHA and he informed me that the intention of the Suboxone regulations was to trust doctors to use their clinical judgment on how they treated their Suboxone patients. They didn’t want to restrict Suboxone’s use like Methadone had been.  Methadone, of course, is only available in clinics.  This forces addicts to waste a lot of time, often making it hard to keep a job.  It also forces them to congregate with other addicts, many of whom are still using and not interested in recovery.  So Suboxone can be prescribed in private physician’s offices and the “trusted physician” can treat his patient with dignity and respect. Both are working towards stopping drug use and changing behaviors and lifestyles.

It all sounds good, but now we have patients hitting up multiple doctors and making very easy money.  The unscrupulous doctors are getting rich by writing scripts for lots of patients and pretending they are practicing good medicine.  And already there is so much Suboxone on the streets that many patients are getting hooked on it.  They will soon find out just how difficult it is to stop.

If you or someone you love is in need of detox from opiatesalcoholbenzosMethadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitant to call Jennifer Pius at 1-877-77-DETOX (33869).  We are here to help you and yours get clean and stay clean!

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