Heroin addiction is a serious problem that can often be fatal. Methadone has been one of the treatment options for long-term heroin addicts. However, the major concern in treating heroin addicts with methadone is that methadone can become addictive. This is one reason methadone therapy is usually only given to long-term addicts. A new study has now found that an alternative drug therapy combined with psychosocial treatment is effective in helping heroin addicts. Investigators from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, conducted a study to measure the effectiveness of the drug buprenorphine in treating heroin addicts.
The researchers involved 40 adults, who were dependent on heroin for at least a year but who did not qualify for methadone treatment, in the study. The participants were randomly assigned to two groups, one that received buprenorphine daily, and the other that received the drug for six days and then was given a placebo. All patients participated in cognitive behavioral group therapy, received weekly individual counseling sessions, and submitted regular urine samples for analysis to detect drug use. Researchers found that three-quarters of those in the first group (i.e. those who received buprenorphine daily) remained in the treatment program one year later compared to none of those in the second group who were given the placebo. Also, urine samples of individuals in the first group were free of illicit drugs including heroin. The incidence of criminal activity was also reduced among those patients given the drug compared to those given the placebo.
The lead researcher of the study concluded that the strategy of delivering buprenorphine in combination with cognitive behavioral treatment was a useful complement to methadone maintenance treatment.