October 5, 2005

Drug helps combat teen heroin addiction

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As an add-on to counseling in
treating opioid addiction in adolescents, the drug
buprenorphine is more effective than a standard addiction
treatment, according to a new report.

The researchers note that despite an increase in opioid
dependency among adolescents over the last decade, relatively
little research has been done to identify effective therapies
for these young patients.

Dr. Lisa A. Marsch, from the University of Vermont in
Burlington, and colleagues assessed the outcomes of 36
opioid-dependent teens who were assigned to medication-assisted
withdrawal therapy with either buprenorphine or clonidine. All
of the subjects also received thrice-weekly behavioral

Seventy-two percent of patients in the buprenorphine group
stayed in treatment compared with just 39 percent of those
given clonidine, the team reports in the Archives of General

Moreover, the percentage of buprenorphine-treated patients
with opiate-negative urine test results was 64 percent, double
the percentage seen in the clonidine group.

Relief of withdrawal symptoms and reduction in drug-related
HIV risk behavior was noted among subjects in both groups, the
authors note.

In general, buprenorphine-treated subjects described more
positive effects of their medication than those given
clonidine. No evidence of opioid intoxication or psychomotor
impairment was seen.

"This study, to our knowledge, was the first randomized
controlled trial to evaluate combined behavioral and
pharmacological treatments for adolescents dependent on
opioids," Marsch's group concludes. The results suggest that
buprenorphine plus behavioral counseling is an effective
intervention for opioid addiction in this population.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, October 2005.