UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – According to the National Center for Drug Abuse statistics, in the past year, Michigan has seen 2,385 overdose deaths with 78 percent of those resulting from opioids.

Abusing opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, can lead to addiction or overdose. Dr. Jason Bombard, a psychiatrist from Aspirus Ironwood, explains what the opioid crisis looks like in the Upper Peninsula.

“In general Michigan has some of the highest rates of opioid deaths and opioid abuse across the nation, and the U.P. despite a rural area has not been spared from that,” said Bombard. “It’s actually a lot of things here going on that contribute to this crisis and part of that is that there is a lot of unemployment, and there are a lot of financial issues that certainly do drive these other issues as well. I think one of the biggest issues here in this area is just a lack of resources and a lack of access to treatment. Which is one of the reasons why we’re here hoping to try and help with that.”

Most people are prescribed opioids to reduce moderate to severe pain following surgery, injury, or diagnosis of certain health conditions. However, between 8 to 12 percent of people prescribed opioids for pain develop an opioid use disorder (OUD) according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Of those numbers, very few are able to recover on their own.

Treatment for OUD includes a comprehensive treatment plan that incorporates multiple methods for a whole-person approach. Those methods can include behavioraltherapies, counseling and, in recent years, medication. 

Suboxone (Buprenorphine/naloxone) is a fixed dose medication, approved by the FDA, to treat OUD and reduce opioid related deaths, such as fatal overdoses, by 50 percent. This prescription medication is used in treating those addicted to opioids, both illegal or prescription. It contains ingredients that partially blocks the opiate receptors and reduces a person’s urge for drug use and can stabilize someone going through withdrawals.

The good news is that there are medications to help treat narcotic dependence, including Suboxone.

“Suboxone is a medication designed to help people with opioid use disorder in conjunction with counseling and mental health services, of course,” said Kim Traczyk, a physician assistant in psychiatry at Aspirus Ironwood. “What it’s designed to do is decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms if someone is just starting treatment with Suboxone. The other thing it’s designed to do is decrease cravings which ultimately will help people have better long-term success rates with treatment on it, also. One other neat thing about the medication is that it is available in dissolving tablets and dissolving films so it’s easy for somebody to take on a daily basis at home without needing to go into treatment centers.”

Aspirus Health offers certified Suboxone prescribers who are able to assist patients to overcome opioid use disorder.

“Suboxone is one of the few treatments that exist in what we consider medication-assisted treatment of opioid abuse. In order to prescribe Suboxone, you do have to go through some special training and get a special waiver from the DEA to be able to prescribe that,” said Bombard. “It’s not something everyone is comfortable with doing and it’s something that is really necessary. As this opioid crisis continues to worsen, it is one of the really proven things that can be helpful, so. Trying to get as many people out there prescribing it, especially in areas like this where prescribers can be few and far between I think is really important.”

To learn more about treatment for opioid use disorder or Suboxone, talk to your primary care doctor or schedule an appointment today by visiting aspirus.org.