Office-based buprenorphine treatment for drug abuse shows promise

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Patients who receive buprenorphine treatment for opioid addiction in an office-based setting are more likely than those receiving methadone treatment to be young men, new to drug use, and with no history of methadone treatment, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Approved for treating heroin and prescription opiate pain killer abuse in 2002, office-based buprenorphine holds the promise of bringing new patients into treatment. While heroin and prescription opiate pain killer abuse has substantially increased over the years, the availability of treatment has not increased with the demand.

Along with her colleagues, Lynn Sullivan, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine, evaluated whether office-based buprenorphine treatment in a primary care clinic was associated with a different patient population receiving treatment compared to patients enrolling in methadone maintenance.

"We found that individuals seeking buprenorphine did differ from those seeking methadone along several important variables--age, sex, ethnicity, employment status, etc.," said Sullivan. " Results suggest that buprenorphine is having some success in reaching individuals who are unable or unwilling to use methadone for opioid addiction."

Demographic information and the individual's history of drug abuse were compiled from 190 patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction.

Individuals that received buprenorphine, compared to those that sought out methadone treatment, were more likely to be male, employed, have five fewer years of opioid addiction, have lower rates of injection drug use, lower rates of hepatitis C infection and have no prior history of methadone treatment.

Other authors on the study included Marek Chawarski, Patrick G. O'Connor, Richard S. Schottenfeld and David A. Fiellin.

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