Dr. Michael Ahmann treats an average of 125 adults per month for opioid addiction at his Scottsdale-based addiction recovery clinic. Every day he sees the impact of Arizona’s enslavement to narcotic drugs and heroin.
“I have soccer moms and I have stock brokers, bankers, and teachers. They cover all demographics,” Ahmann said.
Ahmann is one of an increasing number of doctors nationwide prescribing an opioid-based drug for addicts: Suboxone. The drug combines two other drugs used for addiction, buprenorphine and naloxone, and it helps relieve patients from the brutal effects of heroin and painkiller withdrawal. It also satisfies cravings associated with opiates.
But since the drug was approved by the FDA in 2002, it has been a source of controversy in the medical community because it is addictive. Critics also complain it can be easily sold on the streets.
LEARN MORE: Arizona resources for addiction recovery
Ahmann admits it’s not a silver bullet for addiction.
“It's damage control, definitely. It is not the ideal,” Ahmann said.
He prescribes the medication to patients with the goal of lowering the dosage eventually to nothing. But some of his patients have been taking Suboxone for months and even years.
“Jennifer” is a 39 year-old mother of two and a medical professional who has been taking Suboxone for three years to treat her dependence on pain-reliever medication.
“It took away the withdrawals so I could function on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “It was very hard and it’s still a struggle.”
Another Suboxone patient, “Barbara," has been taking the prescription drug for ten years.
“The biggest advice I would give to women is that there is help out there,” she said, referring to Suboxone. “It was the answer for me. You can keep going on. You don’t’ have to go into rehab. You don’t have to miss 30 days of work.”
For more information on Suboxone from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, go to their official website.