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Health Beat: Opioid implant

Health Beat: Opioid implant

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sarah Wilson is looking forward to moving her family into a nicer home.

"It's like a fresh new start, and I'm so excited," said Wilson, 40.

It's something that wouldn't have been possible just three years ago at the height of her opioid addiction.

"At the worst of it, I was taking 30 to 35 Lortabs a day," detailed Wilson.

Wilson credits the opioid drug treatment buprenorphine as the salvation that turned her life around. She had been taking the oral form for three years before enrolling in the trial for the buprenorphine implant, called probuphine. It includes four rods, each about the size of a match stick, that are surgically implanted into the arm.

The implant "sits under the skin for six months, and it gradually delivers the medicine every day, equal dosage," said Dr. Amit Vijapura, a psychiatrist in Jacksonville, Florida.

After six months, the rods are removed and the patient can decide if they no longer need treatment or if they want the rods implanted again on the other arm. This can continue for as long as the patient wants. Wilson immediately saw the benefits.

"You can travel and not have to worry about it getting lost in your luggage. You don't have to worry about the pharmacy not having your medication ready," said Wilson.

But there is a downside. If something happens and pain medication is needed, opioids won't work with the implant.

For Wilson, finding an alternative way to control pain is well worth it.

Vijapura said the other side-effect of the implant, which is typical for any form of buprenorphine, is constipation, but he said it's so mild he rarely has to stop the medication because of it.

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