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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.


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