Buprenorphine not a solution for drug treatment

I have a few questions about the article “Baltimore Health Department seeks to double buprenorphine treatment” (Sept. 19) and a couple of comments.

My first question is, who's paying for this new entitlement to happen? Secondly, what's the cost to the taxpayers? Well, the answer to the first question is obvious — all of the taxpayers will still have to bear the brunt of enabling the addicts' continuing self-indulgence. Of course, the second answer is nebulous at best. Nobody really knows or would be willing to venture a number as the continuing costs to the taxpayers rise. No potential cost benefit analysis is available, but I'll tell you this, buprenorphine is not "drug treatment.” It is an opiod management therapy designed originally for a short term medically orchestrated program for complete detox from opiates. By the way, buprenorphine is also sold on the streets illegally and it is, in its own right, a very potent drug with overdose potential.

What's going to happen here? Is a short term "Band-Aid" the solution? Why are the public and taxpayers continuing to give the using addict the easier and softer way? Opiod withdrawal is never life-threatening, and mixing buprenorphine with other drugs like cocaine could lead to deadly "speedballs" (mixing an opiod with cocaine). It is also very dangerous with alcohol use and benzodiazepines that enhance the effect or "high" of buprenorphine. So is the plan to keep addicts on buprenorphine forever? Practicing active addicts will still only seek to get high. Very few will ever detox of their own free will. Anyway, withdrawal from the buprenorphine in itself is a difficult and more arduous process and would still require medical intervention. Who pays for that?

We have one methadone clinic alone in Baltimore City that "treats" five addicts per minute eight hours per day five days a week at an annual cost to the taxpayers of over $6 million for one clinic alone. All of that money is being flushed into the deep abyss of the disease of addiction that is bottomless.

None of the aforementioned measures are treatment anyway, and they are surely not recovery. I have been an internationally certified addictions counselor for over 22 years and I have seen these trends. None of these deal with the real problem, the disease of addiction. Using drugs obsessively is but one of many symptoms.

I hold that abstinence from all mood or mind altering chemicals, including buprenorphine, is only the beginning of the process of recovery. All of that other stuff is an end run that everybody else will continually pay for with less money available for schools, infrastructure, emergency services, etc., as the result of this "compassion.” I'm sick of my tax money going to the funding of the self indulgent who have no appreciation for our "compassion.”

George Hammerbacher, Baltimore

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