December 20, 2016 05:50 AM
President Obama recently signed the “21st Century Cures Act.” Among other things, it provides $1 billion in new funding to combat the opioid crisis.
Some of the grant money will be used to expand the use of a drug called Suboxone. Doctors approved to use it call Suboxone a “wonder drug” when it comes to helping opioid addicts kick the habit.
Dr. Adam Locketz runs TimeWise Medical in Apple Valley. He helps patients all over Minnesota with pain management and addiction. Suboxone is his first choice to help people addicted to pain pills or heroin.
“It is extremely effective in that immediate crisis in which patients stop their previous pain medicines and get on to something that’s going to help them back to life and get their ducks in a row,” said Locketz.
Suboxone made headlines when Prince died.
A California doctor was rushing it to Minnesota, but Prince passed away before it arrived.
“I know that many patients became aware of the dangers of opioids, in our community, as a result of Prince’s death,” said Locketz. “Many patients started calling us saying how do I get off of this stuff?”
Kerry Townsend says Suboxone saved his life. Entrepreneur Magazine recognized him for being a millionaire businessman at age 35.
But after four surgeries, Kerry became addicted to pain pills and lost everything.
“Before Suboxone I was a pill junky,” said Townsend. “I would go from doctor to doctor to make sure I had enough of a prescription.”
At one point, Townsend was even put into a coma to help him fight his addiction.
“I was on so many painkillers that my body was starting to shut down and I got sepsis,” said Townsend.
Dr. Locketz put Townsend on Suboxone three years ago.
“And I think it’s clear to say that it has changed his life 180 degrees,” said Locketz.
Townsend takes the drug three times a day. It comes in a film.
“You put it underneath your tongue and you’re good to go,” said Townsend. “It’s simple as that. I have not had a need for any painkillers or any drugs of that kind whatsoever.”
Dr. Locketz says Suboxone also helps heroin addicts.
“It works with the same pain receptors in the brain that both pain pills and heroin attach too,” said Locketz.
Locketz says we should be using more of it.
“And this is the first step, to get more money, more funding, more awareness, and hopefully more practitioners involved in treatment.”
In addition to more money for treatment, Locketz says the Feds also recently raised the cap on how many patients doctors can treat, from 100 to 275.
But he believes the number should be even larger because Suboxone works so well. Ironically, there’s no cap on how many patients doctors can treat using prescription pain killers, which can lead to addiction in the first place.
Suboxone requires more training before doctors to prescribe it. Locketz says it only takes 10 continuing education medical credits.
Dr. Locketz says Suboxone has been around about 10 years and there are few side effects. He considers it a maintenance drug. The idea is similar to heart patients taking medications every day to stay healthy.
Suboxone does the same thing for recovering opioid addicts.