What You Might Not Know About Opiod Addiction

During a panel at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Warning: This Drug May Kill You director Perri Peltz and Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research Collaborative Brandeis University Dr. Andrew Kolodny, shared facts about the opioid addiction epidemic. Here are a few key takeaways from the panel.

Long-term use of opioids can be dangerous and ineffective.

Peltz said, “People are often being prescribed these drugs for long-term use and they’re not effective for that. We’re not saying opioids are bad drugs. They are good and effective drugs for severe pain or end-of-life cancer pain. It’s the use of them in a long-term way for chronic pain, that we know is ineffective and, in fact, can make your pain even worse.”

“Big pharma” marketing sparked this epidemic.

Dr. Kolodny explained, “To get the medical community comfortable with opioids as a class of drug, Purdue Pharma launched a multi-faceted campaign in which the risks of opioids were minimized … and the benefits were exaggerated… . The prescribing went up, and it led to the epidemic we’re dealing with today.”

Anyone can become addicted to opioids; it’s not genetically linked.

“With highly addictive drugs, like nicotine, heroin or oxycodone, genetics or the patient’s characteristics play a much less important role,” Kolodny told the audience. “It’s the drug’s inherent addictive properties -- the drug’s effect on the brain -- that become much more important…. The common pathway to becoming addicted to opioids is repeated use.”

Current rehab programs are not effective.

Kolodny stated, “Abstinence-based programs for opioid addiction don’t work for most people. A short-term detox or 30 days in rehab and somebody relapses pretty quickly. It doesn’t help them, or in some cases, it sets them up for an overdose death because their tolerance went down.”

Alternative forms of treatment aren’t easily accessible.

“The first line treatment for opioid addiction is use of a medicine called buprenorphine or suboxone,” said Kolodny. “Unfortunately, not enough people are accessing that treatment. There are lots of barriers to a treatment that could be saving many lives.”