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FDA Closer To Decision On Approving Implant Treatment For Drug Addiction

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  An implant could be the newest weapon in the fight against the growing epidemic of drug addiction, which is now a problem in neighborhoods everywhere.

The Probuphine implant is currently being reviewed by the FDA and was tested here in the Philadelphia area.

Experts say it could be an important alternative to current treatments that are used to help people beat drug addictions.

Drew Shaw loved playing football in school, until he was injured and prescribed Vicodin.

"When I graduated, I was fully dependent on opiates," Drew said. "It's a lot cheaper to buy heroin."

"I grew up in Gladwyne you know, I was sleeping on the streets of Kensington and Cambria and getting heroin," said Drew.

After years struggling with addiction, Drew is off drugs now, with the help of therapy and medications that he has to take three times a day.

"A lot of people look at it as a moral deficiency," Drew said. "I see it as a disease."

The tiny implants could make addiction treatment easier, compared to taking daily meds, this lasts for six months.

"It can help improve adherence to medication," said Dr. Michael Frost, an addiction specialist in Conshohocken.

Dr. Frost helped test the Probuphine implants for clinical trials, which showed they work as well, if not better, than daily medications.

So how does it work?

Four little rods will be inserted just under the skin in the inner aspect of the arm. This will help stabilize brain chemistry and help take away cravings.

Drew, who's a new dad, wasn't in the trial, but he likes the idea of the implants and not having to worry about taking medications that have become a lifesaver.

"It makes you feel normal when you're fully dependent, you now," Drew said. "It just makes you feel normal."

The FDA initially did not approve the implants because there wasn't enough information about the number needed, and how they should be removed and re-implanted after six months.

But with new information being submitted, the agency is expected to decide again on the implant in February.

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