U.S. Opens Study of Prescription Drug Abuse Treatments

6 million Americans reported nonmedical opioid use in previous month, experts say

SUNDAY, March 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse are launching the first large-scale national study to evaluate treatment of addiction to prescription pain medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

The 11-site Prescription Opiate Addiction Treatment Study will examine the effectiveness of buprenorphine/naloxone tablets (Suboxone), along with different kinds of drug counseling, in patients addicted to prescription opioids.

The study is a response to the growing problem of prescription drugs abuse in the United States. In 2005, more than six million Americans reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs within the previous month, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That's more than the number of people who used cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants combined.

Researchers plan to enroll 648 people, including those who were prescribed pain drugs for chronic pain and became addicted to them and people who abuse painkillers to get high.

"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," lead investigator Dr. Roger Weiss, clinical director of the McLean Hospital Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center in Belmont, Mass., said in a prepared statement.

"It also isn't clear whether people who started taking these medication for legitimate reasons will respond to the same treatment in the same way as those who use pain medications solely on an illicit basis," Weiss said.

More information

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy has more about prescription drug abuse.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, news release, March 2007
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