Mar. 22, 2004 Scientists funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report that a single injection of a sustained-release formulation of buprenorphine effectively relieved withdrawal symptoms for 6 weeks in heroin-dependent patients. A tablet form of buprenorphine, a medication developed through research also supported by NIDA, is already used in the United States and around the world as a once-daily treatment for opioid dependence.
The research team, led by Dr. George Bigelow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, administered the buprenorphine injection to five addicted heroin users. During 4 weeks of residential treatment and 2 weeks of outpatient treatment, the scientists assessed patients for signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal. The patients also received weekly injections of the opioid hydromorphone Dilaudid to test whether their sensitivity to this class of opioids was reduced by the buprenorphine treatment.
The researchers found that a single dose of the sustained-release form of buprenorphine provided relief of withdrawal symptoms and reduced the effects of the test opioid for 6 weeks.
The findings from the current study, the first to test this new formulation of buprenorphine in humans, may lead to more treatment options for individuals addicted to heroin. A long-acting form of buprenorphine may increase patient adherence to treatment, ease the burden of visits to treatment providers, make treatment more accessible, and reduce the risk of buprenorphine being misused.
This study was published in the January 2004 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and further information on NIDA research can be found on the NIDA web site at http://www.drugabuse.gov.
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