The Drug Next Door

Helping opioid addicts find solutions.

 Illustration by Stuart Briers

High school honor students, physicians, lawyers, even a judge—Dr. Martin Buxton has treated them all. “Opioid addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. We see people from all walks of life,” says Buxton, a physician, psychiatrist, and addictionologist with Pinnacle Treatment Centers.

Buxton cited a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics that found nearly 60 percent of adolescents who arrived at an emergency room with a dental problem walked out with an opioid prescription. “I see a lot of people who were carrying a genetic predisposition [to addiction], they fractured a hip, fractured an arm, got in a car accident, and got started on opioids. They got prescribed OxyContin and other long-acting opioids, in hindsight longer than they should have been, and then they became addicted,” he says. 

Many then turn to heroin as their tolerance grows. Often, without their knowledge, the heroin can be laced with, or predominantly be, fentanyl—a powerful synthetic opioid that can shut down breathing in a matter of minutes.

Hoping to stem the problem before it begins, Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience researchers are teaming with the University of California San Diego and the National Institutes of Health to develop a nonopioid drug for chronic pain. The drug, known as ML351, inhibits a signaling pathway believed to be responsible for the development of chronic pain that does not respond to anti-inflammatory drugs.

For those already addicted, Pinnacle offers medically assisted detox using methadone, Suboxone, or Vivitrol to relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and its cravings. Designed to address both addiction and underlying psychiatric problems, Pinnacle’s holistic programs take place in a variety of settings. There is also a partial hospitalization program, where patients come in during the day and return home at night. 

Regardless of the substance, the road to help often starts with an intervention from a loved one. Says Buxton, “The best thing to do is wait until you’re not angry, and say, ‘Look I’m really worried about you. I noticed you’re doing things, and I really think you have an alcohol or drug problem. I love you and don’t want anything to happen to you—let’s get help.’” PinnacleTreatment.com


This article originally appeared in our December 2019 issue.

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