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Local addiction experts hoping federal legislation to help opioid addicts becomes law

Heroin use has resurged in recent years, as has abuse of opiod-based prescription painkillers

  Waiting lists for treatment of opioid addiction continue to grow in central New York. That’s why local addiction experts are hoping proposed federal legislation that could help the situation becomes law.  

Monika Taylor, director of behavioral health services at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse says Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, can be key to someone getting off their addiction to opioids -- heroin or prescription painkillers.

"It does work on the same receptors in the brain and it helps not only to manage the withdrawal, but occupy those same receptors so taking any more opioids would not be beneficial to the individual,” said Taylor.

But the problem is federal law limits how many patients physicians can prescribe the drug to in a year. That mean addicts trying to get treatment can be turned away by doctors, who would otherwise be able to treat them.  

The bipartisan Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment, or TREAT bill, expands those limits. It also allows nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug.

“Which is another thing we desperately need,” said Taylor. “It’s very interesting that nurse practitioners can prescribe opioids for pain management, but up until this proposed legislation, there’s been no way of them to prescribe medication for treatment of addictions.”

Taylor says the current heroin and opioid epidemic isn’t going anywhere, so legislation like this is necessary to open the doors to recovery for addicts in central New York who need drug therapy to function.

"While they’re on the medication, they won’t be experiencing withdrawal, so kind of getting them to a normal state.'

The bill was introduced in the Senate last year, but stalled in committee. This House of Representatives version was introduced last month, and among its co-sponsors are central New York Reps. John Katko and Richard Hanna.