Suboxone Clinics, Over-The-Counter Naloxone, And Needle Exchanges—Can These Solve Rural America's Heroin Crisis?

During the past decade, many pockets of rural America have fallen victim to a new drug epidemic that was once thought to be the province of large cities—fentanyl-laced heroin. This deadly drug has taken a strong and immediate grip on its users, leaving many law enforcement professionals and local leaders at a loss as to how to deal with the spread of heroin use. Are programs like needle exchanges, over-the-counter availability of naloxone, and suboxone clinics a good way to ease addicts into treatment, or do they simply prolong the problem? Read on to learn more about these programs and their respective success rates. 

What programs are being enacted to curb heroin use?

Facing daily overdoses and heroin-related arrests, along with jail overcrowding due to the massive increase in these arrests, many members of law enforcement and local governance have turned to other methods to cut down heroin use among their constituents. These include:

Making naloxone more widely available

Naloxone is a medication that can bind to the brain's opiate receptors nearly instantly, helping pull a patient out of an overdose. When administered promptly, naloxone can often be the difference between life and death; however, in many states, naloxone is administered only if an emergency medical technician or police officer happens upon the scene in time. 

By making naloxone available over the counter, some states hope that they can increase the odds that heroin users may begin carrying this drug as a preventive measure rather than relying on publicly funded naloxone to pull them from the midst of an overdose. 

Establishing suboxone clinics to help users quit

Another option that many states have backed is the suboxone or methadone clinic. These clinics cater to patients who have an addiction to heroin and provide participants with a measured dose of suboxone or methadone. These drugs can curb unpleasant withdrawal symptoms without providing the "high" of heroin, helping users kick the habit without finding themselves pushed back into illegal drug use by the severity of their withdrawal symptoms. Although some heroin addicts may need suboxone for the rest of their lives, proponents of these clinics point to the sterile, controlled environment in which this substance is administered—in severe contrast to the questionable product provided in an illegal heroin buy.  

Establishing needle-exchange programs

Other areas have established needle-exchange programs, where heroin users can safely dispose of their used or dirty needles and receive clean ones. While some point to this as mere enabling of an illegal habit, program supporters indicate that this is a way to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases that are common among IV drug users. 

To learn more about the options for heroin addiction treatment, contact a medical facility like Brightside Clinic.