We’ve all been exposed to pictures of drug abusers meant to scare us onto the straight and narrow path. Images of opium dens, strung out “junkies” using needles, meant to create distance between the substance abuser and the community. This strategy has worked well, creating isolation, exclusion and stigma around substance abuse issues and those that struggle with addiction. This stigma has made it harder for those in need to ask for, and accept, treatment for addictions.
Today, there is tremendous attention given to opiate abuse. With the rise in opiate related addictions, overdoses and deaths that have impacted many of us in the community, finding treatments that work and that bring an individual back into the community is a long time in coming. With the advent of buprenorphine, first approved in 2002 for use in the United States, many people who lived tethered to their opiate habit have been able to stop using, learn how to better manage their life and re-enter the community. Called Medication Assisted Treatment, or MAT, buprenorphine has changed people’s lives dramatically.