Conn. man first in New England to get recently FDA approved opioid treatment


WESTPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – The opiate epidemic is seemingly spiraling out of control across the country and in Connecticut.

“In the state of Connecticut alone in 2015, we had 723 deaths from overdoses- 415 of those were from opiates alone- actually heroin.”

Dr. Joseph Russo – CEO and Medical Director of Saved From Addiction — specializes in addiction psychiatry. The gold standard of treatment, buprenorphine, marketed as Suboxone, is taken orally. But patients don’t always follow instructions.

“The person usually takes the medication on a daily basis so they can decide a day or two to stop taking the medication and they can use. Whether its heroin, vicadin, percocets and then they go back to the buprenorphine to detox themselves.”

That’s why Dr. Russo welcomes the latest arsenal, Probuphine, in battling the deadly addiction.

“It’s formed into a rod, 26 mm long and 2.5 mm in diameter. The treatment involved four of these that are actually implanted under the skin.”

It contains the same medication. The FDA approved it less than a month ago.

“You come in, you make an incision, you make a mark, then you draw four lines in a fan like pattern where the implants are going to go.”

His patient Michael, a husband and father of two, is the first in New England to get it.

Dr. Russo ask, “You’re feeling okay right?” Michael says, “It feels great.

The implant lasts six months, releasing the medication slowly and steadily, preventing cravings and withdrawals. Implants in the other arm, covers another six. Michael’s dependence on painkillers began 10 years ago.

Michael says, “I had degenerated discs, C5, C6, C7. It got to the point there was bone on bone. There was a burning sensation down my arm.”

He shares his story to reach out to others.

“You are not alone,” says Michael, “There’s probably millions of people who are dealing with what we’ve dealt with, with what I’ve dealt with and there are people who are willing to help.”

Dr. Russo says, “Long term, the hope is that with enough time getting the active drug use off the table. The person actually gets further and further rooted in recovery and they are able to withstand using in the future.”

So that patients like Michael can focus on living their lives.

“The implant for me was just another step to finally being free of everything of all the opioid addiction and to prove to my loved ones and me, that I’m all in on this.”

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