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18 January
Short-term and extended-release medications effective in treating opioid addiction
By Rachael

Short-term and extended-release medications effective in treating opioid addiction

For long, drug addiction has been looked at as an immoral act caused by lack of willpower, courage and self-confidence. This thinking led to many believing in the abstinence-only model or jail term for drug-related offenses in the United States.

On the contrary, the last decade has made living in the country tougher with almost every state witnessing more drug overdose deaths than in car crashes or gun violence. This has led to a reassessment of addiction treatments by researchers and health care personnel. With the fatalities caused by opioid epidemic rising rapidly, 2016 has been the worst year so far, causing more than 63,600 overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues, heroin and opioid painkillers (Percocet, OxyContin) topped as the causes of overdose. On average, almost 116 people died every day due to opioid-related overdose.

MAT vs. abstinence-only mode of treatment

For long, there have been debates citing merits and demerits of the abstinence-only model to deal with drug abuse. However, science has established that drug users seek heroin and opioid painkillers not necessarily to get a euphoric high, but to stave off the obnoxious withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and body-aches that occur in the absence of the original drug as the opioid receptors in their brain begin to crave for the dopamine effect they produce. Hence, opioid addiction is so powerful that willpower may fall by the wayside and something more dependable may be needed to counter it. This is where medication-assisted treatment (MAT) comes in.

Experts often refer to MAT as “the gold standard” for opioid addiction treatment, although it has to be used with caution as it may not work for everyone. However, many people feel that this treatment is just about substituting one drug (opioid) with another (methadone). Therefore, MAT is often resisted by drug users and their families.

Top two treatments for opioid addiction

In the face of the opioid epidemic being officially declared a national emergency in the U.S., it is becoming increasingly important to provide immediate and effective remedial treatment. A study was conducted to test the efficacy of two such popular medications — extended-release naltrexone (an opioid antagonist such as Vivitrol) and short-term treatment using buprenorphine-naloxone (an opioid agonist marketed as Suboxone) that need to be taken every day. The study concluded that both are equally safe and effective in curbing opioid use, and preventing overdose and relapse. The results have been published online in The Lancet.

Although effective, the treatment procedures for each are radically different. While patients treated with naltrexone need to detoxify first, for those on buprenorphine detoxification is not needed. The transition from opioid use to buprenorphine medication is seamless. The study sheds light on the probability of those dropping out of detox to quickly relapsing.

Therefore, patients who want naltrexone but are unable to complete detox should be persuaded to undergo agonist-based treatment like buprenorphine. Both types of medications are effective in treating opioid use disorders as against mere counseling or use of placebo.

Opioid addiction can be life-threatening

Between 1999 and 2016, more than 200,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. While the state and federal authorities are taking new measures to control the crisis, the responsibility lies with the citizens as well. Those who have fallen into the trap of drug addiction should not undermine the seriousness of the problem and choose effective treatment over silence. The earlier one walks the road to sobriety, the better are the chances of long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction to any prescription drug, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest. You may contact the Arizona Prescription Abuse Helpline to find the finest prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Arizona where patients are treated in a safe and secure environment through experiential programs. You can call us at our 24-hour prescription drug helpline number 866-692-3563 or chat online with an expert for more information.

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