Suboxone is most effective in treating painkiller addiction

Individuals addicted to prescription painkillers are more likely to succeed in treatment with the aid of the medication buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone), report McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers in today's online edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"Adjunctive Counseling During Brief and Extended Buprenorphine-Naloxone Treatment for Prescription Opioid Dependence," is the first large-scale study to address treatment of prescription opioid addiction. According to lead author Roger Weiss, MD, Chief of the Division of Alcohol and at McLean Hospital, most studies examining treatments for opioid dependence have been done with heroin-dependent patients at clinics, resulting in the lack of data on treatment for patients addicted to prescription painkillers, especially in the offices of primary care doctors.

"Despite the tremendous increase in the prevalence of addiction to prescription painkillers, little research has focused on this patient population," said Weiss, a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "This is notable because recent data tell us that the use of prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons is 20 times more common than and 50 percent more people seek treatment for prescription drug abuse than for heroin."

Part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Network, this is the first randomized large scale clinical trial for the treatment of prescription opioid abuse, involving 10 sites nationwide and more than 600 treatment-seeking outpatients dependent on prescription and either taking more than prescribed or using them illicitly. Each participant received Suboxone—a combination of , which alleviates opioid withdrawal and craving, and , which prevents abuse if the drug is not taken orally as prescribed—in conjunction with Standard Medical Management, in which physicians evaluated treatment effectiveness and recommended abstinence and self-help participation. Fifty percent of study participants also received additional more intensive individual addiction counseling.

According to Weiss, 49 percent of patients benefitted from Suboxone during a 12-week course of the medication. However, once the medication was discontinued, patients had a high rate of relapse. Monitored in four week increments, individuals showed an increasing rate of relapse the longer they remained off Suboxone. Another interesting finding, noted Weiss was that neither having chronic pain, nor participation in intensive addiction counseling affected the participant's success rate.

"We were surprised by some of these findings because there was an overall assumption that this population—those who have had little to no exposure to heroin—would do better in terms of not needing long-term medication intervention," said Weiss. "It is clear that given the prescription drug abuse epidemic, we need to continue to look at the viability of longer-term use of Suboxone and whether it can continue to provide sustained recovery from addiction to pain medications."

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 1.9 million people in the United States meet abuse or dependence criteria for prescription pain relievers. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that annually, more people die from prescription painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine combined.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study focuses on prescription addiction

Apr 23, 2007

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have started a study to evaluate treatments for addiction to prescription painkillers.

Research examines dentists' role in painkiller abuse

Jul 01, 2011

The Obama administration turned a bright spotlight on prescription painkiller abuse in April when the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a national action plan and a statement from Vice President Joe Biden. With ...

Doctors lax in monitoring potentially addicting drugs

Mar 03, 2011

Few primary care physicians pay adequate attention to patients taking prescription opioid drugs -- despite the potential for abuse, addiction and overdose, according to a new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College ...

Recommended for you

WHO: Millions of Ebola vaccine doses ready in 2015

Oct 24, 2014

The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March.

Added benefit of vedolizumab is not proven

Oct 23, 2014

Vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio) has been approved since May 2014 for patients with moderately to severely active Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the Act on the Reform of the ...

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

Oct 22, 2014

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Liv
not rated yet Nov 07, 2011
Clearly, this is a much better solution than Methadone, which almost seems like a cruel human experiment, rather than a treatment. What I don't know is if there is a way to manage the inevitable: what to do with Suboxone misuse (as it is misused in the same way Methadone is) and what to do in case of persons who take the Subox with pain killers who then go on to take them with pills, heroin, etc. to their detriment. Suboxone is too easy to get, because it doesn't always require a program.