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Continuing Treatment with Medications Appear to be Effective in Youth Opioid Addiction

Adolescents suffering from opioid addiction and subjected to continuing treatment composed of buprenorphine-naloxone were less likely to test positive for opioid use as compared to those who were enrolled in short-term detox programs with the same medication. This is according to a study conducted by George Woody, MD and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Recent surveys show that addiction to opioids and prescription pain relievers has become more prevalent among teenagers. The authors wrote, “The usual treatment for opioid-addicted youth is short-term detoxification and individual or group therapy in residential or outpatient settings over weeks or months. Clinicians report that relapse is high, yet many programs remain strongly committed to this approach and, except for treating withdrawal, do not use agonist medication.”

The study conducted by Woody’s group was composed of comparing the outcome of short-term detoxification to that of extended treatment with buprenorhine-naloxone. Buprenorphine is a type of medication that works on the symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal. Naloxone, on the other hand, reverses the effects of opioid when it is taken by the patient.

One group of patients were under medication for twelve weeks while the other, the detox group, were under treatment for two weeks. Both groups were also provided other drug treatment approaches including group and individual counseling.

“The researchers found that overall, patients in the detox group had higher proportions of opioid-positive urine test results at weeks four and eight but not at week 12.” In general, the study found that stopping treatment has negative effects on both groups. They simply occurred earlier and are more severe in the detox group.

The authors further suggest that having opioid treatment in the form of buprenorphine-naloxone medications available in various private drug rehab programs can potentially provide more options to treatment for adolescents suffering from opioid addiction. The increased availability may also enhance the positive outcome of the treatment. They also recommend that studies be conducted on these possibilities and assess the potential of long-term treatment for opioid dependence among the youth.

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