CHICAGO Nov 4 Longer-term use of a drug that
relieves withdrawal symptoms might help young people undergoing
treatment for addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers
like Oxycontin, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
Young addicts who took Reckitt Benckiser's (RB.L) drug
Suboxone for 12 weeks were less likely to abuse drugs during
treatment and stayed in treatment longer than those who
underwent short-term detox and counseling, they said.
Dr. George Woody of the University of Pennsylvania in
Philadelphia said many treatment programs in the United States
and other countries favor shorter-term detoxification and
counseling for young people addicted to the drugs called
opioids, but said drug treatment might be a more effective
"There is a hesitation to use medication," said Woody,
whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical
Association. The problem is that relapse rates in these
programs are quite high, he said.
Suboxone, known generically as buprenorphine-naloxone,
combines two drugs. Buprenorphine relieves withdrawal symptoms,
while naloxone deters abuse by causing an opioid addict to
experience rapid withdrawal symptoms if it is taken improperly,
such as by injection.
The researchers studied 152 opioid addicts aged 15 to 21
for 12 weeks. Patients in the Suboxone group got the drug for
nine weeks, and then started tapering off until they were on no
drug by week 12.
The other group got a lower dose of the drug and were
tapered off after two weeks. All got weekly individual and
By week eight, 23 percent of people in the drug group had
positive urine tests, compared with 54 percent who were off the
"We found when they are on the drug as compared to when
they were off, their opiate use was much less," Woody said in a
telephone interview, noting that the study found no serious
side effects in the group who stayed on the drug.
They found the youths who continued to take Suboxone were
less likely to use opioids, cocaine and marijuana, to inject
drugs, or drop out of treatment than those who received
short-term detoxification and counseling.
Opioids include heroin, morphine and prescription pain
killers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.
"These findings should reassure and encourage providers who
have been hesitant to offer extended Suboxone treatment to this
population," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of
Health, said in a statement.
"They also highlight the need for longer-term studies to
determine whether sustained treatment can improve outcomes."
(Editing by Will Dunham)