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Beware of phony opioid treatment claims

OxyContin pain-relief pills.
OxyContin pain-relief pills. AP

Fraudsters are taking advantage of the opioid epidemic by advertising phony treatment options to the estimated 2 million opioid addicts in the United States. Trying one of these treatments may seem harmless, but it could end up costing you more than time and money. Using products with unsubstantiated claims can prevent those addicted to opioids from finding help that is safe and effective.

The way this particular scheme works is when an ad is made for a product that claims to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. These products often claim to be a “miracle cure” with “guaranteed” results. Some brands even state their pills are “all natural,” “organic” and contain vitamins and herbs.

Recently the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent out warning letters to marketers and distributers of 12 opioid cessation products. They accuse the companies of illegally marketing unapproved products with claims about their capacity to help in the treatment of opioid addiction and withdrawal.

If you or someone you know is looking to begin the treatment and recovery process, it’s important to be skeptical of any product making claims like “miracle cure” or “fast results — guaranteed.” Many of these treatments that make bold promises are not approved by the FDA. Opioid dependence is a serious issue and takes time and effort to address — it isn’t something that will happen overnight.

Better Business Bureau offers the following tips when finding help or seeking treatment:

• Find help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a referral and information service. Consumers can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit SAMHSA.gov. All information is confidential and free.

• Check with a doctor. Before taking any dietary supplement, ask a health provider about the product’s scientific evidence, side effects and interactions with other medication. You can learn more at FDA.gov.

• Check out reviews. Go online and read reviews about companies or products. You can also visit BBB.org to view the company’s BBB Business Profile. Business Profiles include contact information, complaint history, and customer reviews. Read the details to learn more about a previous customers’ experiences.

• Report questionable claims. Contact your local BBB or the FTC if you discover any misleading or deceptive advertising. Consumers can also report these ads to the FTC.

Health care professionals and consumers may report any adverse events related to these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. To protect yourself from all kinds of scams, visit the BBB Scam Tips page at BBB.org/scamtips.

Veronica Craker, veronica.craker@thebbb.org, is the content and communications director for Better Business Bureau Northwest +Pacific. To check a business or report a scam, go to bbb.org or call 208-342-4649.

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