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Medication Helps Make Therapy Work for Teens Addicted to Prescription Opioids

Bridget M. Kuehn
JAMA. 2010;303(23):2343-2345. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.789.
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Albuquerque—For social workers like Shannon Garrett, MSW, at the Mountain Manor Treatment Center in Baltimore, the greatest challenge in treating young people addicted to prescription opioids may be getting them to therapy in the first place.

“No treatment tool can work if a patient doesn't show up,” said Garrett at the Blending Addiction Science and Practice meeting here in April, organized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Yet medications, such as buprenorphine, can greatly improve patients' adherence to treatment. Garrett, who acknowledged that he was initially skeptical of using prescription drugs to treat patients with these addictions, explained that talk and behavioral therapies can do little to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and strong drug craving that often lead patients to relapse to drug use. But buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist often paired with naloxone to reduce abuse potential, has been demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial to increase patient retention and improve outcomes (Woody GE et al. JAMA. 2008;300[17]:2003-2011). Now scientists are working to build on this and other emerging evidence to develop therapies targeted to the unique needs of this patient population.

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Admissions to publicly funded addiction treatment centers for prescription opioid abuse among US teens outstripped admissions for heroin addiction in 2007.

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