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Naltrexone Implants Promising for Heroin Addiction Treatment
Researchers in a recent Norwegian study have found that a new treatment using naltrexone implants could significantly help heroin addicts seeking addiction treatment. The most common current treatments for heroin addiction are methadone and Subutex, drugs that are similar to morphine. Although they are both also addictive, they can reduce heroin use and criminal activity among patients.
The new treatment using naltrexone implants is not addictive, and targets those who want to be treated without addictive substances. Naltrexone is a medication that completely blocks the effects of heroin and other opiates, reducing the risk of overdose, drug cravings, addiction, and relapse.
Nikolaj Kunøe completed his doctoral degree on the topic at the University of Oslo’s Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF), and explained that the blocking effects induce a calm feeling and allow patients to be treated for their heroin addiction without having to worry about becoming addicted to another substance. This can relieve a great deal of stress, which often triggers relapse.
The study involved 56 heroin-dependent patients who had been through detoxification treatment and were motivated to remain heroin-free; half the patients were implanted with a total of 20 naltrexone implants (which would last for six months). All of the patients continued follow-up treatments over the course of the study.
After the first six months, more than twice as many of the patients receiving naltrexone refrained from using heroin and other opiates as those in the control group (11 out of 23 who were given naltrexone refrained from drug use, compared to 5 out of 26 in the control group). Heroin use was more than halved among those receiving naltrexone who did continue using heroin. In the control group, the majority of patients relapsed to daily heroin use.
Patients receiving naltrexone were mostly satisfied; on a scale from 0 to 100, the participants gave the treatment an 85.
Helge Waal, Professor emeritus at SERAF, would like to see the naltrexone implant included as one of the treatment options offered to heroin-dependent patients in Norway. He added that even though the study was relatively small, the findings are so clear that he thinks the implants should become an option for heroin users seeking addiction treatment.
Source: Science Daily, Promising Treatment for Heroin Dependency, February 17, 2011