New, longer-acting injection to help beat opioid addiction

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several dozen people in West Michigan have already started receiving a new, longer-acting injection to help them wean from opioids.

Patrick Dugan, 50, will add his name to that list next week.

“This is an injection that lasts for 28 days,” said Dugan in an interview from his doctor’s office in Grand Rapids Friday morning. “So now I’ve got an injection I get once a month.”

That’s a big improvement over the two daily doses of Suboxone he’s been taking to help maintain his recovery from heroin addiction, Dugan said.

Sublocade, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in November 2017, is an injectable form of Suboxone, a medication that cuts cravings and withdrawal sickness from opioids.

“They don’t have to take the medication two, three times a day and they’re able to concentrate on what really gets people better,” said Sandy Dettmann, Dugan’s addiction doctor. “That is the psychosocial interventions, the twelve-step meetings, the individual therapy, the group therapy, learning to rebuild their lives, learning coping skills.”

For Dugan, starting Sublocade once a month means he won’t be reminded daily of the decade-long heroin addiction that nearly killed him and devastated his family.

Instead, he’ll be able to focus on recovery and all it has given him, including a job, a place to live and renewed relationships with family.

One downside to Sublocade is its cost: $1500 per injection.

However, Dettmann said Medicaid covers Sublocade 100 percent, and other insurers are providing coverage as well.

Dugan, who grew up in Middleville, started drinking at 15 years old and was using cocaine by 18. He first tried an opioid painkiller at 34 when he had dental work done.

He ultimately became addicted to heroin and homeless, living on the street. He suffered at least seven overdoses, two of which landed him on life support.

But Patrick Dugan has been clean from heroin almost two years now.

He credits jail, medication-assisted treatment and Grand Rapids Drug Court for holding him accountable.

“We do have a lot of resources,” said Joe Berlin, Chief Probation Officer at 61st District Court and the head of Drug Court. “We give them a lot of support. But, ultimately, they have to do it, and (Dugan) did it. We’re not out of the woods yet. He’s still in the program. But he’s talking the talk and walking the walk and that’s encouraging.

Dugan, meanwhile, is looking forward to taking the next step forward in his recovery journey.

He is scheduled to get his first shot next week.

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