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Long-lasting medication shows promise for treatment of heroin addiction

Scientists funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report that a single injection of a sustained-release formulation of buprenorphine effectively relieved withdrawal symptoms for 6 weeks in heroin-dependent patients. A tablet form of buprenorphine, a medication developed through research also supported by NIDA, is already used in the United States and around the world as a once-daily treatment for opioid dependence.

The research team, led by Dr. George Bigelow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, administered the buprenorphine injection to five addicted heroin users. During 4 weeks of residential treatment and 2 weeks of outpatient treatment, the scientists assessed patients for signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal. The patients also received weekly injections of the opioid hydromorphone Dilaudid to test whether their sensitivity to this class of opioids was reduced by the buprenorphine treatment.

The researchers found that a single dose of the sustained-release form of buprenorphine provided relief of withdrawal symptoms and reduced the effects of the test opioid for 6 weeks.

  • WHAT IT MEANS: The findings from the current study, the first to test this new formulation of buprenorphine in humans, may lead to more treatment options for individuals addicted to heroin. A long-acting form of buprenorphine may increase patient adherence to treatment, ease the burden of visits to treatment providers, make treatment more accessible, and reduce the risk of buprenorphine being misused.


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  • Contact: Michelle Person
    301-443-6245
    NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
    19-Mar-2004


    Page: 1

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