An effective treatment for heroin and opioid addiction is becoming more accessible in the Portland area.

Dr. Raghuram Bhat, Chief Medical Officer at Columbia River Mental Health Services in Vancouver, is in the final stages of getting approval to prescribe the drug buprenorphine to hundreds of patients.

"I think once this treatment is available as an option, I expect we'll be seeing quite a few more people," said Bhat.

Buprenorphine, most commonly marketed as "Suboxone," has also been used in limited quantities at Central City Concern in Portland.

Chief Medical Officer Rachel Solotaroff said patients have told her Suboxone has helped them pull away from the grip of addiction.

Solotaroff said studies have shown the drug to be largely successful, but treatment centers have not fully embraced its use.

"We're making progress here, but we've got a long way to go. Still only about 20 percent of people with opioid use disorder who are seeking treatment receive it," said Solotaroff.

Buprenorphine eases an addict's cravings and withdrawal symptoms, without getting them high.

Solotaroff said federal grants have encouraged some treatment providers to use the drug, but most treatment providers and physicians in the area have chosen to manage addiction in other ways, including use of methadone.

Bhat hopes to change that within the next several weeks, with the ability to prescribe Buprenorphine to up to 275 patients.

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