Public Release: 

One-shot addiction treatment shows promise

Long-lasting depot medication appears safe and effective for treatment of narcotic addiction

Elsevier

A study in the January issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports that a long-lasting depot medication appears safe and effective for treatment of narcotic addiction. In the study a single injection prevented withdrawal discomfort for 6 weeks in heroin-dependent patients, reduced the effects of injected opiates, and provided a comfortable detoxification as it gradually wore off.

The study medication was an experimental injectable sustained-release depot formulation of the medication buprenorphine. The injection is a suspension of biodegradable microcapsules each containing small amounts of the buprenorphine medication. As the microcapsules gradually disintegrate they provide a long-duration sustained release of buprenorphine. A tablet form of buprenorphine that is taken by holding it under the tongue is already used in the U.S. and around the world as an analgesic and as a treatment for opioid dependence; the tablet normally needs to be taken every day. The recent study was the first to test this new long-lasting depot formulation in humans. The study examined the safety and pharmacokinetics of the depot medication, and tested its effectiveness for reducing the opioid withdrawal syndrome and for reducing the effects of opioid challenge injections.

Participants were five volunteer physically dependent heroin abusers. In a residential laboratory setting the heroin abusers each had their narcotics abruptly stopped and was instead given a depot injection of 58 mg of buprenorphine. For the next 6 weeks the patients were assessed repeatedly for signs and symptoms of the opioid withdrawal syndrome. In addition, the volunteers received weekly challenge injections of the opioid hydromorphone (Dilaudid) to test whether their sensitivity to opioids was reduced by the depot buprenorphine treatment.

The results were promising both for prevention of the opioid withdrawal syndrome and for blockade of the opioid high from the hydromorphone challenge injections. No significant withdrawal syndrome occurred and no patient required additional medications. In addition, the effect of the opioid challenge injections appeared considerably reduced. No significant side effects were reported.

The ability of a single medication dose to have beneficial effects over 4 to 6 weeks is a significant finding for the treatment of opioid dependence. Further research will need to determine how this new product can best be used.

The depot medication holds promise both as a one shot detoxification treatment and as an alternative maintenance treatment. With the recent advent in the U.S. of office-based addiction treatment with sublingual buprenorphine, this longer-acting formulation could increase patient adherence to treatment, ease the visit burden on both patients and providers, and make treatment more accessible.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, under research grant support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The depot medication was developed and produced by Biotek, Inc. of Woburn, Massachusetts.

The study appeared in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Authors were Bai-Fang X. Sobel, Stacey C. Sigmon, Rolley E. Johnson, Ira A. Liebson and George Bigelow from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Elie S. Nuwayser and James H. Kerrigan from Biotek, Inc. The full text of the article is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2003.08.006.

###

For more information, please contact:
George E. Bigelow
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
5510 Nathan Shock Drive
Baltimore, MD 21224-6823
USA

Telephone: 410-550-0035
Fax: 410-550-0030
Email: bigelow@jhmi.edu

© 2004 Drug and Alcohol Dependence. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

About Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Drug and Alcohol Dependence (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/drugalcdep), published by Elsevier, is the official journal of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (http://www.cpdd.org), the largest and oldest organization for the scientific study of drug dependence.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence publishes original research, scholarly reviews, commentaries, and policy analyses in the area of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and dependence. The hope of its editors is to promote mutual understanding of the many facets of drug abuse to the benefit of all investigators involved in drug and alcohol research, and to facilitate the transfer of scientific findings to successful treatment and prevention practices.

The information contained in Drug and Alcohol Dependence is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the global science and health communities, the company publishes more than 1,800 journals and 2,200 new books per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic products, such as ScienceDirect (http://www.sciencedirect.com) and MD Consult (http://www.mdconsult.com/) bibliographic databases, online reference works and subject specific portals.

Elsevier (http://www.elsevier.com) is a global company headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has offices worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group plc (http://www.reedelsevier.com), a world-leading publisher and information provider. Operating in the science and medical, legal, education and business-to-business sectors, Reed Elsevier provides high-quality and flexible information solutions to users, with increasing emphasis on the Internet as a means of delivery. Reed Elsevier's ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.