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Under-Used: Colorado Expert Says Buprenorphine Is An Effective Opioid Treatment

DENVER (CBS4) - After years of fighting an epidemic of opioid abuse, we are starting to see some success. Here in Colorado there is a push for more widespread use of the drug buprenorphine. Experts say when it is paired with counseling it is the most effective treatment for addiction.

"It's a way for people to not be taking that opioid that is more dangerous and have one that is really a safer opioid," Robert Valuck said.

Robert Valuck
CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews Robert Valuck. (credit: CBS)

Valuck is a professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.

"This is one of the ways to do it that's the most accessible. Methadone clinics are wonderful but there are not that many of them and buprenorphine could be prescribed by virtually any doctor that's willing to get one day of training," he said.

However, not all are and while additional training is one reason, he says there is a bigger reason we are not seeing the treatment used more.

"I think the biggest culprit in all of this is stigma, there's people that don't know they should, people feel ashamed and doctors don't want to treat them, pharmacists don't want to dispense to them," Valuck said.

Dan Scales, who owns Scales pharmacy in Denver, is among those who do sell the drug.

"We kind of step into the arenas that have the most kind of stigma associated with it and we try to really provide access to patients who have otherwise fallen through the cracks," Scales said.

His work in regards to the opioid crisis started several years ago when he was the first pharmacy to begin selling Naloxone, a drug that can save the life of someone who is overdosing.

"When we first opened the pharmacy we lost an individual who had overdosed on the sidewalk. We did CPR on him and he didn't make it, after that we got very involved with the Harm Reduction Action Center," he said.

(credit: CBS)

Valuck says as more doctors go through training and begin prescribing buprenorphine, they will need more pharmacies to follow.

"It could be very accessible for people if we ramp it up and that's what we are trying to do," he said.

Ramping it up starts with changing the narrative, something both he and Scales hope to do.

For more information on the Valuck's work with the state, visit

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