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NIDA Study Seeks Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Join Together, March 8, 2007

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has launched what's being called the first large-scale national study aimed at developing treatments for addiction to prescription pain medications like OxyContin and Vicodin.

The Prescription Opiate Addiction Treatment Study will test the effectiveness of Suboxone, a buprenorphine/naloxone mix designed to reduce drug craving while minimizing the risk of diversion and abuse. The study will measure outcomes among groups of users taking Suboxone alongside a variety of counseling-based interventions. Some subjects will receive brief interventions from their doctors, while others will be enrolled in intensive, individualized counseling programs.

The study is billed as a response to the growing problem of addiction to prescription opiate-based pain medications; NIDA noted that more Americans are becoming abusers of such drugs than are taking up marijuana use, and current nonmedical users of prescription drugs surpass the numbers of cocaine, heroin, hallucinogen, and inhalant users combined.

NIDA expects to enroll about 648 patients in 100 sites for the study.

"This study is important because most of the research to date has been done on treatment for those addicted to heroin, not prescription pain medications," said Roger Weiss, M.D., clinical director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, and lead investigator for the study. "It also isn't clear whether people who started taking these medications for legitimate reasons will respond to the same treatment in the same way as those who use pain medications solely on an illicit basis."