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White mini bus moves down the street in the center of the city

‘Bupe Bus’ Gains National Attention

Previously, we discussed a medication making major strides in combating the country’s opioid crisis. Named buprenorphine, it has become a powerful agent in helping ween people off their addictions; particularly after overdoses. Well now, the drug has gained even more attention thanks to a “Bupe Bus” that dispenses it and works as a mobile treatment center.

Based in Philadelphia, the bus is part of larger project put together by Prevention Point (who is also responsible for the city’s only syringe exchange program). The mobile clinic makes stops at areas of the city hit hardest by the crisis. From there, professionals reach out and help those who may be struggling with a dependency.

For the record, buprenorphine works to curb cravings and can reduce the withdrawal symptoms many experience after getting off of opioids. It is actually one of only three FDA-approved medications for painkiller treatment and is highly regarded within medical circles.

The bus works by allowing people to enter and receive consultations for a licensed MD (in this case, Dr. Ben Cocchiaro). Instructions are then given on how to administer the drug and ultimately a prescription is authorized at a local pharmacy.

But, as a recent “Bupe Bus” NPR article pointed out, there have been complications with this particular drug. No one questions buprenorphine’s effectiveness or the effectiveness of the mobile treatment center. But there are concerns about misuse, which is why several local Philadelphia pharmacies have stopped carrying it.

Sadly, just like any prescription, buprenorphine can be misused. In its proper pill form, the drug does exactly what it’s intended to do. But on the black market, it has been dissolved and injected into syringes. From there, it can produce a dangerous high.

In fact, there are now street variations of buprenorphine and dealers are beginning to target those who are newly clean.

“We started seeing people [sell the drug] in our store in front of us,” local pharmacist Richard Ost told NPR. “So if we were having a lot of people in recovery coming out of our stores. The people who were dealing illicit drugs knew that, and they would be there to talk to them. And they would say, ‘Well, I’ll give you this’ or ‘I’ll give you that’ or ‘I’ll buy your Suboxone’ or ‘I’ll trade you for this.”

So, as with any treatment, there are unforeseen consequences. But the truth of the matter is, buprenorphine is a big step in the right direction and getting it in the hands of the right people can make a major difference.