A new study concludes that opioid-addicted young adults who underwent 12 weeks of treatment with the anti-addiction medication Suboxone and counseling had substantially better outcomes than those receiving standard, short-term detoxification and counseling.
Study participants who received the extended Suboxone treatment were less likely to use opioids, cocaine and marijuana, to inject drugs, or drop out of treatment than those who receiving short-term treatment.
Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, said that the results of this study “should reassure and encourage providers who have been hesitant to offer extended Suboxone treatment to this population,” although she stressed that longer-term studies are needed “to determine whether sustained treatment can improve outcomes.”
The study included 154 patients aged 15 to 21 who were addicted to opioids for an average of 1.5 years and were recruited from six outpatient treatment programs around the country. All were offered group and individual counseling for 12 weeks. Participants were randomly given either two weeks of detoxification using Suboxone or 12 weeks of extended Suboxone treatment. Starting at week 9 the dose of Suboxone for the extended treatment group was tapered downward and was discontinued at week 12.
The researchers found that patients receiving extended Suboxone treatment were much less likely to provide opioid-positive urine samples at weeks 4 and 8 than those in the standard detoxification group, but not when the dose had tapered off at week 12. Evaluations at months 6, 9 and 12 showed increased rates of opioid use in both groups compared to the end of the treatment period. Both groups showed lower rates of opioid use than they did prior to treatment, particularly in the extended treatment group.
“We saw a marked reduction in opioid and other drug use; less injecting behavior, and better treatment retention in the patients assigned to longer-term Suboxone treatment,” said George Woody of the University of Pennsylvania and Treatment Research Institute, the study's chief investigator. “The teens and young adults readily accepted Suboxone and tolerated it well.”
The study was conducted through the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network and supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The research was published in the Nov. 5, 2008 issue of the journal the American Medical Association.