What Is Suboxone? Addiction Expert Explains This New Treatment for Opiate Addiction That Might Have Saved Prince

05/05/2016 AT 08:00 PM EDT

When the son of a California addiction specialist flew to Paisley Park to meet with Prince, he also brought with him a small dosage of Suboxone, which he was transporting to a Minnesota physician, according to the family's attorney William Mauzy.

"That's very unorthodox," Peter Grinspoon, M.D., a Massachusetts-based physician and is a recovering opiate addict who is nine years sober, tells PEOPLE. "They should have had the Minnesota doctor prescribe it."

He added, "The minute they heard Prince was having trouble with prescription drugs they should've gotten him into treatment right away."

Dr. Howard Kornfeld, the medical director of Recovery Without Walls outpatient addiction clinic, arranged for his son Andrew to meet with Prince to discuss treatment for an addiction to painkiller at Paisley Park. Unfortunately, Prince passed away on April 21, the day he was supposed to meet with Andrew.



In a recent statement, Recovery Without Walls defended its medical practices and treatment methods saying that Dr. Kornfeld "is a nationally recognized expert in the use buprenorphine," which is the active ingredient in Suboxone, the drug that Andrew was carrying.

What Is Suboxone? Addiction Expert Explains This New Treatment for Opiate Addiction That Might Have Saved Prince| Music News, Prince

Prince in 1987

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Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and the opiate blocker naloxone, is a drug that's used to treat opiate addiction.

"We use it to transition people who are on heroin or prescription opiates off of them in a very safe way," says Grinspoon, adding that it's a form a replacement therapy. "We replace heroin – which is on the street and you don't really know what you're taking–with Suboxone, which is something that is still an opiate, but is something that we prescribe and that's a lot safer and that we have control over and know isn't adulterated or tampered with."

"Essentially, they're addicted to Suboxone," he says. "It's substituting something less bad for something more bad."

Suboxone is preferred over Methadone because it doesn’t have nearly as many side effects and is harder to overdose on because it contains an opiate blocker. Furthermore, you can take Suboxone at home, whereas you must go to a dispensary for methadone. Grinspoon says doctors "love" Suboxone.

"It's really life saving," he says. "It's an incredibly positive addition our armamentarium to treat addiction."

What Is Suboxone? Addiction Expert Explains This New Treatment for Opiate Addiction That Might Have Saved Prince| Music News, Prince

Prince

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Unfortunately, "there's a big shortage in Suboxone providers," says Grinspoon, because of government restrictions on the drug since there is a black market for it. In order to prescribe it, doctors must go through eight hours of training and receive an extra license from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Grinspoon was recently authorized to prescribe the medicine; however he's limited to only 30 patients.

"A lot of people are advocating that the government lighten up in their control of the Suboxone providers because, sure it can get diverted, sure there can be a black market, but that's small potatoes compared to this incredible epidemic we have of overdoses," he says.
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