Combination Medication, Extended Treatment Reduce Teen Opiate Addiction Relapses

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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For the growing number of teens addicted to opiates (i.e. heroin or prescription pain-relief drugs), short-term detoxification and/or psychosocial treatment programs are commonly recommended, despite high relapse rates and limited success. Researchers have found a more effective treatment method that targets the physiological aspects of opioid addiction, which may reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.

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A study appearing in the November 5 issue of JAMA shows that extended-treatment with buprenorphine-naloxone (suboxone) for opioid-addicted youth resulted in much less drug use, injecting and treatment dropout than short-term detoxification alone.

The NIH-funded study, led by George Woody, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was conducted at 6 sites in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Clinical Trials Network.

"Effective medication should not be excluded or stopped simply because the patient is young and has been addicted to opioids for a short time - the high level of opioid use after the last dose of medication seen in both arms of this study resembled detoxification in opioid-dependents adults having much longer periods of addiction," said Dr. Woody. "Although we did not determine how long the medication should be continued, the study showed that it is a very useful addition to counseling and other psychosocial treatment services for outpatient treatment of opioid addicted youth. Clinicians should be in no hurry to stop this combination medication treatment."

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