Fentanyl isn’t just causing overdoses. It’s making it harder to start addiction treatment

published on November 16, 2022 by Lev Facher in STAT News

Doctors are reporting a troubling trend when it comes to fentanyl.

The powerful drug, they say, isn’t just causing overdoses — it’s also making it more difficult to begin addiction treatment. In particular, fentanyl appears more likely to cause severe withdrawal symptoms for patients put on buprenorphine, a key medication used to treat opioid use disorder.

The development adds yet another layer of crisis to the country’s drug epidemic, which killed nearly 108,000 Americans last year. Even as fentanyl sends overdose deaths soaring, it threatens to make the world’s most-prescribed addiction drug inaccessible to the increasing number of patients who need it.

“It’s the clinical challenge of my career,” said Sarah Kawasaki, an addiction doctor and psychiatry professor at Pennsylvania State University. Inductions, or the process of starting patients on buprenorphine treatment, have become “progressively more difficult” in the past five years, she said, as fentanyl has spread throughout the drug supply…

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