How Behavioral Health Organizations Can Prepare for the Future of Opioids

HealthFO

As the Opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities across the U.S., pharmaceutical companies race against time to create new opioid formulations. But what will happen once the old formulas are gone? With two million Americans estimated to be dependent on opioids — and an additional 95 millions using prescription painkillers in the past year — the country is facing a potential wave of mass withdrawals.

A new guard of treatments is almost ready to enter the market and will target both the euphoric and “feel good surge” that make opioids so incredibly addictive.

As Business Insider reported in 2016 NKTR-181 is full mu opioid agonist molecule that provides potent pain relief without the high levels of euphoria that can lead to addiction. As of August 2017, NKTR-181 is currently in Phase III trials for chronic back pain.

PZM21 will address the rush that a user experiences, especially in those prone to addiction disorders. PZM21 won’t trigger the surge in dopamine, preventing the consumer from experiencing the rush that often becomes addictive over time when the brain associates use with reward behavior. As of August 2017, the drug failed Phase II but is currently in pre-clinical trials.

As we get closer to removing the physically and psychologically addictive elements from opioids, what happens to the people experiencing opioid addiction disorders?

There is currently no evidence that even “abuse-resistant” drugs will lead to less abuse. Although the pills won’t be crushed up and snorted, they may still be consumed in the same quantities and for those who have become addicted to the euphoria, a new formula may not do.

This inevitable change in formulation could lead to mass withdrawals, or worse, an uptake in the cheaper and easily available alternative — heroin.

What this means for facilities and behavioral health organizations:

Education will continue to play a major role for facilities. Simply knowing that major changes in the market are getting closer raises awareness of the issue and the need to build processes to support these changes.

It could mean providing additional support groups, staff and resources, educational materials, newsletters, webinars, and podcasts to get the word out on the trends and progress being made by manufacturers and encouraging individuals and families to give themselves enough time to prepare.

With only 10% of individuals who need addiction disorder treatment seeking professional help, it’s now more important than ever to be visible to the remaining 90%. This means organizations need to be speaking with the media about trends in the marketplace and their potential hazards. By staying ahead and forecasting this information to media, organizations have an opportunity to inform a broader audience and create meaningful change in the way we approach treatment.