Prescription Opioid Addiction Can Be Treated with Suboxone, Study Shows

The first large-scale study of treatment for addiction to prescription opioids finds the drug Suboxone (buprenorphine plus naloxone) can be an effective therapy. The study found adding intensive counseling for opioid dependence was not helpful, however.

The study, conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), included 650 people addicted to prescription painkillers, ABC News reports. They were treated with Suboxone, which mimics some of the effects of opioids, while reducing drug cravings, the article notes.

Half of the participants also received intensive counseling. Over the course of 12 weeks, 49 percent of participants reduced prescription painkiller abuse. Once they stopped taking Suboxone, the success rate dropped to 8.6 percent. The reduction in painkiller abuse was seen regardless of whether participants said they suffered from chronic pain.

“The study suggests that patients addicted to prescription opioid painkillers can be effectively treated in primary care settings using Suboxone,” NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, said in a news release. “However, once the medication was discontinued, patients had a high rate of relapse—so more research is needed to determine how to sustain recovery among patients addicted to opioid medications.”

The results appear in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

14 Responses

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    Mary Kay R.

    June 23, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    It saddens me that the only options we ever come up with for substance use disorders are medication related. We put a man on the moon but can’t come up with better options for addicts than medicating them. It is very disheartening that we believe in this country that we can solve issues with more drugs. Abstinence approaches with comprehensive life building strategies are not given a priority. It is a shame with sink so much money into the making, research, and implementation of such drugs and yet have not put comprehensive services under one roof, including employment, support assistance (including financial), and housing. It’s amazing as a field how naive we are.

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    October 25, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Suboxone is a bitter sweet alternative. It’s effective but just as addictive as meds. For me knowing that while I on sub I cannot even get an opiate high if I wanted helped most of all. My two older sisters also use suboxone and were both heroin addicts for years.. we had an older brother who didn’t get the chance to clean up with suboxone. He would hopefully still be here if subs would have beam available when he was booting dope.. but as a ten year opiate addiction survivor I am content with my life on suboxone. It’s not perfect but I’m still here and going strong..

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    Paul Farmer

    November 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    I was one of the counselors in this study and the results are deceptive as well as disappointing. Firstly the “counseling” was primarily education from a very basic CBT perspective. They wanted to have something that anyone at any agency could administer without any specialized training. Every session was required to be based on one of the 12 session topics regardless of the issues the clients brought to the session.

    The results suggest that counseling has no value. I would suggest that ineffective counseling has no value.

    Also it is not a surprise that NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD thinks we need “more research is needed to determine how to sustain recovery among patients addicted to opioid medications”. I would think this might be the place to provide some effective counseling and ongoing support however I assume she is talking about a different pill.

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