Implant used to combat opioid addiction

Implant used to combat opioid addiction
Probuphine implant. Source: NBC

PINE BELT (WDAM) - Last year, Mississippi saw the highest number of deaths linked to prescription pills in state history.  With 70 pills for every man, woman and child in the state, officials are working hard to combat the crisis.

The epidemic is not just hitting Mississippi, but spreading across the country, leading some doctors to a new implant to help addicts get clean.

Probuphine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year.  It's made of buprenorphine, a slow-release medication used to wean addicts off opioid and heroin.

The implant, comparable in size to a matchstick, is placed like a fan in a patient's arm.  Right now, its approved to be used for six months in one arm, then placed in the other arm for six months.

According to the drug company's website, there are seven doctors certified in Mississippi to prescribe, insert or remove Probuphine.

"What I see a lot are people who have some type of emotional pain, they tend to treat that pain with opiates," Isaac Boose said.

Boose is the Director of Next Step, the treatment program for men at Pine Grove in Hattiesburg.  Boose said the treatment facility takes a 12-step program with an "abstinence approach," but medications are used to curb the cravings for drugs.

"It's not just opiates," said Boose.  "It's if they take that pill and feel better, their mood is altered, that becomes a ritual for them."

While Pine Grove does not currently use Probuphine, psychiatrist and addictionologist Dr. Peter Kamp said there is some medication used to help patients comply with the program.

"In general, the more tools that are available, the more likely we are to find one that works for somebody," Dr. Kamp said.  "When someone has to take a pill everyday to combat cravings, if they forget a pill and they start having cravings one day, the chances of relapse is much greater."

Both Boose and Dr. Kamp said while tools can help fight addiction, an implant like Probuphine should not be considered a "quick-fix."

"Just in our society, that's what we think, that it's a cure all," said Boose.  "I think the person still has to get their life together, deal with certain issues, it's a multifaceted approach."