Doctors, families hope deregulation of drug will help slow overdoses

News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Biden Administration is continuing a push started under former President Donald Trump that will allow more people to be prescribed a medicine proven to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths.

The drug is called buprenorphine, or the more common version is Suboxone. Doctors say while it has risks, it’s the best option right now.

“If this can save somebody’s life, let’s do it,” said Jane Toscano, who lost her grandson to an opioid overdose. “I don’t want nobody else to hurt like me … You wake up one day and you go to wake up your child and they are gone … It’s terrible.”

For Toscano, it’s been almost one year without her grandson Roy Feliciano. She helped raise him until his death when he was 21. Toscano says Roy thought he was taking Percocet but instead got a much more potent opioid — synthetic fentanyl — in pill form.

An addiction psychiatrist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Dr. Talal Khan, thinks the change in federal regulations will save lives. He applauds the loosened guidelines that will remove hoops and allow prescribers to treat up to 30 patients at a time. 

Buprenorphine and Suboxone are daily pills that helps users quit opioids, similar to how a nicotine patch would help cigarette addiction.

Khan says the medicine can be a game changer, but not without support. He says opioid use is often connected to medical problems or mental illnesses like depression.

“Unless we uncover and change the underlying disorder, this would basically be putting a Band-Aid on the situation,” Khan said. 

He says many times, therapy should accompany the prescription. Khan also said that teaching opioid addiction in medical school would allow more medical professionals to address the crisis.

Toscano agrees that these changes are a starting block.

“A start yes, but more has got to be done, definitely more,” Toscano said.

More information on overdose prevention in West Michigan can be found on the Red Project’s website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Michigan Headlines

More Michigan

StormTracker 6 Radar