Stopping opioids cold turkey isn’t an option for most people addicted to the narcotic due to severe withdrawal effects.
“The process of stopping opioids is extremely painful,” said Anthony Dekker, DO, FAOAAM, a member of the Past Presidents Council for the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine. “During withdrawal, if you have a hole, something is flying out of it. Your eyes are tearing up, you have a severe runny nose, you’re sweating, you’re vomiting and you have severe diarrhea. Obviously a person doesn’t want that.”
One way physicians can help patients ease out of their addiction without severe symptoms is by administering the drug buprenorphine. The “8-hour Buprenorphine Waiver Trainer,” required for physicians by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in order to prescribe this narcotic, will be offered Tuesday at 7 a.m. in Room 107AB, Level 100, Convention Center. Once the class is complete, prescribers will have a special DEA number starting with the letter “X.” Buprenorphine is a partial opioid that produces effects like euphoria, but the effects are dampened compared to full drugs such as heroin.
“The beauty of buprenorphine is that it significantly reduces the negative effects of opioid withdrawal or it stops them completely,” Dr. Dekker said. “I’ve had many people say that the reduction in opioid withdrawal symptoms is better with buprenorphine than it is with any other opioid.”
Dr. Dekker, who will be teaching the course along with Stephen Wyatt, DO, FAOAAM, and William Morrone, DO, FACOFP, said the course is broken down into eight sections that will walk physicians through the epidemiology of opioids, the pharmacology of buprenorphine and appropriate patient selection.
“Not every patient is a good candidate,” Dr. Dekker said. “Some would do better if they were on methadone, because their lives are so out of control and they need to have that very tight management. Buprenorphine you can get once a week, once every two weeks or once a month.”
The next section will address special populations such as adolescents, patients with Hepatitis C infection, HIV, patients who have severe pain disorders, elderly patients and pregnant patients.
Dr. Dekker said the course will also explain the paperwork and forms that go into tracking the drug along with actual clinical management.
“Like the use of opioids, you can’t just stop the use [of buprenorphine],” he said. “It has to be gradually tapered. We’re going to go over potential train wrecks that are bound to happen to make sure people successfully manage the ongoing care of patients who are opioid dependent.”