The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), at the University of Maryland at College Park, also reveals that buprenorphine is an increasingly popular street drug, which dealers smuggle into jails and prisons.(7) The results show an increase in the percentage of persons testing positive for buprenorphine, in contrast to a smaller pilot study, and that these individuals had been using other drugs, suggesting possible abuse or addiction. Of the 98 specimens that tested positive for buprenorphine, 45% also contained two or more additional drugs and more than 60% contained other opioids.(8)
These figures are even more worrisome, when viewed within the broader context of opiate-related overdoses and fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that one person dies from a drug overdose every 19 minutes. About 28,754 Americans died after accidentally overdosing on legal or illegal drugs in 2009 (the most recent year for such data), according to the CDC; about half of those deaths involved prescription painkillers (of which suboxone is one such medication).(9) Dr. Alex Cahana, the chief of pain medicine at the University of Washington, illustrates how easily use of suboxone or similar drugs can lead to death.
"Could you imagine, a worker that popped their back, and we started to put them on (pain) medication and three years later they were dead?" Dr. Cahana told CNN. "That's devastating."(10)
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