Medication used to curb addiction blamed for overdose deaths

NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. – Prescription opioid overdoses killed nearly 600 Virginians last year. Southwest Virginia counties have the highest rates of fatal overdoses in the state. As treatment needs grow, some methods are garnering criticism.

A Carilion pharmacist said medicines that are used to curb opioid use should not be feared, despite the criticism. 

Buprenorphine is a medicine used to help curb opioid cravings. But, according to the Virginia Department of Health, the medicine when combined with other drugs can be deadly. Sixteen people died from the combo in 2016. 

Opiates are depressants so if they are mixed with another type of depressant drug then they can be dangerous. However, a pharmacist at Carilion says, if used appropriately, the drug can help pull people out of addiction. When patients are prescribed Buprenorphine, they also receive support to help them recover. 

"We're using the buprenorphine, but we're also incorporating counseling services and a haven for the patients to come in and work through their issues," said Charles Tarasidis, a pharmacist at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.

The Department of Health has projected 19 people died in 2017. We won't know the full year numbers until the middle of 2018.