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A groundbreaking new British drug offers hope to opioid addicts

Submitted by Tech Insider on October 18, 2020 - 4:58am

A drug user prepares heroin before injecting inside of a Safe Consumption van on September 25, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland.

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A groundbreaking new drug is the latest development in the fight against opioid addiction offering new hope to drug users. 

Buvidal, an injectable form of Buprenorphine, acts as a slow-release drug and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain which stops the patients from having withdrawal symptoms. 

It only has to be administered once a week or once a month, making it a good alternative to methadone which is often prescribed to wean users off of heroin and other opioids.

Methadone users frequently have to visit the pharmacy on a daily basis which can be difficult for addicts with a job, those living in rural areas, or people whose local pharmacies do not provide support. 

Dr Arun Dhandayudham, Medical Director for Westminster Drug Project, told Insider: "Buvidal completely steadies blood levels and blocks any highs from of heroin so those who stop using gain a sense of stability and a new lease for life. 

"It is of most benefit to those who are working because they no longer need to visit the pharmacy every day but it generally helps by completely unhooking the system so people are not meeting other users who they can be tempted by. 

The scheme was first introduced to the UK through a partnership between London's Redbridge Council, Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group, Camrus, P&S Chemist, and the Westminster Drug Project last year.

"Around 10% of the caseload in Redbridge are on Buvidal or have used it in the past and its success has meant that there are plans to roll out the program across 30-40% of London," said Dr Dhandayudham.

A pilot program for Buvidal was also launched in Glasgow last year with 14 patients, all of whom remained engaged in recovery six months after the trial had finished, according to the BBC

Scotland's drug fatality rate is three times higher than the UK collectively but only 40% of those with drug problems are currently in treatment, according to the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS).

Research from the Scottish Drugs Forum found that 18% of the Scottish population has been prescribed at least one opioid in 2018 in the same year, they were responsible for or implicated in 86% of the 1,187 drug deaths.

Meanwhile, methadone also contributed to or was implicated in 560 or 47% of drug fatalities in 2018 but now over 100 people in Glasgow are being prescribed Buvidal instead.

There are also plans to roll out Budival in Northwest England to help control the country's growing rates of opioid use. 

A 2019 report from West Sussex NHS Trust, in Southeast England, found that the UK is now heading towards an American-style crisis with five people every day dying from opioid overdoses. 

In the USA, 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year - 50,000 of which involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The opioid mortality rate has contributed to three consecutive years of decline in life expectancy between 2015 and 2017, the most dramatic decrease since the 1960s.


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