With almost no corner of the U.S. untouched by substance dependency and/or abuse, a new form of opioid dependence treatment called Suboxone may be gaining momentum in South Carolina, according to recent reporting from The Post and Courier.
In broad geographic terms, the South suffers from a lower percentage of substance abuse and dependence (8.7%) than the Midwest, West, or the Northeast (10%, 9.2%, and 8.1% respectively), according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). However, an estimated 31,000 people in South Carolina have used heroin and 439,000 have reported illicit use of pain pills. Anecdotal evidence from Suboxone users and prescribers in the state suggests that some South Carolina communities have warmed to the drug’s effects. Of Suboxone, Dr. Sarah Book, an addiction expert at Medical University of South Carolina, said, “This drug is like no other drug I’ve prescribed. It changes lives.”
Echoing Book, doctors and researchers around the country have had similar praise for the FDA-approved drug, which has been available since 2003. Dr. Claude Curran, a Fall River psychiatrist, told The Boston Globe in 2006 that the medication “has the potential to wipe out at least 50% of the national demand for heroin.”
Buprenorphine, the primary active compound in Suboxone, works similarly to full opioid agonist such as heroin, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone but to less effect. In addition, naloxone, another component of the medication, reverses overdoses of opioids. As Suboxone gains ground in South Carolina and other states, it may prove to be the long-awaited answer to substance dependency and abuse.