A longer period of detoxification may be more effective for people being treated for addiction to prescription painkillers called opioids, according to a small new study.
Abuse of prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone is a major public health problem in the United States. The new 12-week study, which included 70 people undergoing outpatient treatment for opioid addiction, was published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
For the first two weeks, all the patients took buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction.
They were then randomly assigned to slowly reduce the dose of buprenorphine over one, two or four weeks, followed by treatment with naltrexone, a medication that blocks opioid strength.
Patients in the four-week group were more likely to stop abusing opioids than those in the one-week or two-week groups, the study showed.
The findings suggest that some prescription opioid abusers may respond positively to outpatient treatment with buprenorphine detoxification followed by naltrexone while undergoing behavioural therapy [counselling], study authors wrote.
"Additional controlled studies are needed to better understand the parameters of efficacious treatments for [prescription opioid] dependence, as well as to identify the individuals for whom brief vs. longer-term treatments are warranted," concluded study authors Stacey Sigmon, of the University of Vermont, in Burlington.
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about prescription drug abuse.