In Philadelphia, the District Attorney’s Office has announced they will no longer prosecute people who possess buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, illegitimately.

What is Suboxone?

Used as a drug that prevents withdrawal and overdoses, Buprenorphine is a drug used as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). People with an opioid use disorder often take the drug, overseen by a doctor, to relieve drug cravings and prevent relapse.

Suboxone contains more than one drug. It can act as a powerful deterrent for opioid use, blocking the opiate receptors, which in turn reduces cravings.  The second ingredient in the drug is naloxone, a drug that is used to help reverse overdoses in people.  Combined together, the drugs make Suboxone, an important MAT that can help prevent withdrawal symptoms in people who are addicted to opioids.

Growing Street Use of Opioid Antagonist

In Philadelphia, Suboxone is now sold illegally on the street. People use it for a variety of reasons, but research has shown that it plays a significant part in harm reduction.

In a news release, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Suboxone decriminalization as an effort toward harm reduction.

Studies show that when the buprenorphine is bought illegally, it’s not by people who want to get high. It’s by people who want to prevent withdrawal or stay sober. For some people, it’s just easier to buy it on the street. There’s not enough access to healthcare and treatment for those who need it. So, they get it the same way they get their opioids.

“Instead of expanding access to treatment and saving lives, government inaction has led to the creation of active street markets for these medications in Philadelphia and elsewhere,” the DA’s office wrote in its news release regarding buprenorphine-related arrests. “Extensive research into Buprenorphine use, for example, suggests that the vast majority of people who use street-purchased supplies do so to stave off withdrawal and reduce cravings for other opioids.”

Buprenorphine Prosecutions Halted

Prosecutions are now being dropped against anyone charged with possessing Suboxone without a prescription. Pending cases for people whose only crime was possessing medications that contain Buprenorphine will have their court cases dropped. People who are caught selling Suboxone illegally, of course, will still be prosecuted.