Buffalo Opiate Task Force takes on training doctors, nurses to fight addiction

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – There’s a new way leaders in education are trying to fight the opioid epidemic. A new state grant will help the University at Buffalo train physicians and nurses on how to medically treat people who are addicted to opioids.

University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions is at the forefront of a training effort to fight the opioid crisis in Western New York and across the state.

RIA Director Dr. Kenneth Leonard says there is an FDA-approved medication readily available on the market.

He said, “Buprenorphine is one of the medication assisted treatments that is used for all three of those for prescription opioids and heroin.”

The drug helps alleviate the cravings people who are addicted to opiates feel. But, before it can be used, Dr. Leonard says doctors  and nurses need to be properly trained to distribute it.

He said, “It has much more to do with the interpersonal contacts and how to manage the symptoms in your office, and a little to do with the pharmacology, but it’s not a very complicated drug.”

The program will target 16 “high-need” counties and tribal areas across the state. Some in highly rural areas, which has its own set of problems bringing patients to the clinics.

Dr. Leonard said, “One of the biggest issues in a lot of the areas is transportation. There’s not public transportation and their access to cars may be limited.”

But the drug is not a cure-all. Dr. Leonard says the drug gives people a bit of a “clear space” but  needs to be accompanied by a comprehensive program for those battling addiction.

He said, “It has a little of an opiate. It goes through the same part of the brain and activates those same cells, but it doesn’t make a person high. It doesn’t make them non-functional.”

The goal is to then have these trained doctors be vetted to train others and spread the knowledge. It’s, something Dr. Leonard says he’s hopeful will make an impact across the state.

This is not a matter of willpower, people aren’t going to overcome it just by deciding they’re going to overcome it.”


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