It is hard to argue against the reality that opiates have become a real epidemic in the nation and around the world. Tragically, thousands of new people develop opiate addictions every year. Of these individuals, many will die young because of their addiction. Thankfully, the FDA helps to manage this crisis in many ways. However, some believe that they dropped the ball when they approved a new opioid in late 2018. Why would they approve this drug when so many opiates are already available?

The Opioid in Question (and the Reaction to Its Approval)

In late 2018, the FDA was looking at two new opiates for pain management. Of these two, only one was approved: Dsuvia. It is classified as a Schedule II opioid analgesic. When taken correctly, it can manage severe pain caused by operations or chronic disease. Dsuvia comes in a 30-mcg tablet and has a single-use design. Users place Dsuvia under the tongue, where it dissolves.

Once this opiate was approved, news sources reported an immediate outcry. Many in the medical field decried the need for a new opioid. Others stated that another opioid – and a very potent one at that – would only worsen the epidemic further. The chief defender of this drug, the U.S. Military, had pushed heavily for its approval as an on-field pain-management option.

The FDA eventually responded by stating that Dsuvia was designed to minimize dosing errors and misuse. They stated that it would only be used in medical settings and would not be sent home with patients. Doctor Scott Gottlieb, the current FDA commissioner, released a lengthy statement defending the approval of Dsuvia. It read, in part:

“It can’t be dispensed to patients for home use and should not be used for more than 72 hours. And it should only be administered by a health care provider using a single-dose applicator… Because of the risks of addiction, abuse and misuse with opioids; Dsuvia is also to be reserved for use in patients for whom alternative pain treatment options have not been tolerated…”

This statement has helped stem some complaints, but not all. In spite of these concerns, though, the drug was released in early 2019. Addiction rates have remained similar throughout the nation since its release, which has caused some to wonder if this outcry wasn’t excessive.

Some Argue That the Outcry is Overblown

Although many were quite angry at the quick approval of Dsuvia, others felt that the concern was a little too great. For example, Doctor Sidney Wolfe was among concerned citizens when they said that “It is certain that Dsuvia will worsen the opioid epidemic and kill people needlessly.” Many were very mainly concerned because of the high potency of this medicine: a 1,000 times more potent than morphine.

However, those who argue against this fear state that it is “highly unlikely” that Dsuvia ends up on the street. There are many systems in place, they argue, that track such medicines. These groups help to make sure that dangerous and potent medications stay out of the hands of the average person. Others argued that a new opioid was necessary for pain management, such as Doctor Pamela Palmer, who said:

“For acute pain management in a hospital, there hasn’t been a new opioid developed for many years…Right now, if you broke your femur and went into an emergency [department], you would either be stuck with a needle or they would just give you an oral pill that you would swallow and kind of wait for it to kick in, which could take up to an hour.”

They argue that the under-the-tongue dispersal method of Dsuvia makes it critical for those who need immediate pain management. While their arguments are reasonable, it is hard to deny that a person given Dsuvia could become addicted to it and seek out other forms of opiates. As a result, drug rehab is still essential. In many ways, it is still the best way to manage the opiate epidemic.

Why Rehab May Be Critical

Inpatient treatment for drug addiction is still one of the best care options available. People with opiate addictions can get physical, emotional, and spiritual care for their dependency. And if Dsuvia ends up triggering more opiate addiction cases, rehab may be an essential investment for many.

Unfortunately, these rehab clinics will need to prepare for this possibility by preparing their services for a potentially higher influx of clients. Hopefully, any possible increase of new opiate addiction patients doesn’t stress an already overworked field even further.

Get Help, If Needed

The fears surrounding Dsuvia and other types of opiates are very understandable. Addiction is a serious problem and must be treated properly. Anybody who finds themselves with an opiate addiction should talk to a rehab specialist right away to get the help that they need.

Peer edited by Emma Hinkle

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