SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – As drug overdose rates hit an alarming peak in 2020, those who struggle with addiction look to an opioid-based treatment to kick the habits.

The opioid replacement treatment is called buprenorphine. While the drug is an opioid, it works in the body as an opioid partial agonist, which activates brain receptors to produce a biological response. The drug replaces drugs like heroin, morphine, and fentanyl.

“People remember what they felt like when they were taking heroin, so they take more and more of the buprenorphine to try to get that old feeling back, which is not really very difficult to do at first. But, it becomes harder and harder as time goes on,” Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Director of the School of Addiction and Behavioral Health, Dr. Kent Dean said.

LSU Health Shreveport Dr. James Patterson says addiction treatment specialists say the drugs can potentially stop the opioid crisis.

“You have to weigh the risks and benefits, and I do think the benefits outweigh the risks,” Patterson said.

Patterson said LSU Health has the Louisiana Addiction Research Center, where they look at how to deal with addiction issues in the community.

Dean said removing the stigma around addiction is a major step toward ending the addiction crisis. Stigma is what keeps people hiding in secret and results in death.

“Anything that can be done to lessen stigma is one of CADA’s big missions. Anything that can be done to do that literally saves lives on a daily basis,” Dean said.