JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Pharmacologic treatments for opioid dependence: detoxification and maintenance options

Herbert D Kleber
Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 2007, 9 (4): 455-70
18286804
While opioid dependence has more treatment agents available than other abused drugs, none are curative. They can, however, markedly diminish withdrawal symptoms and craving, and block opioid effects due to lapses. The most effective withdrawal method is substituting and tapering methadone or buprenorphine. alpha-2 Adrenergic agents can ameliorate untreated symptoms or substitute for agonists if not available. Shortening withdrawal by precipitating it with narcotic antagonists has been studied, but the methods are plagued by safety issues or persisting symptoms. Neither the withdrawal agents nor the methods are associated with better long-term outcome, which appears mostly related to post-detoxification treatment. Excluding those with short-term habits, the best outcome occurs with long-term maintenance on methadone or buprenorphine accompanied by appropriate psychosocial interventions. Those with strong external motivation may do well on the antagonist naltrexone. Currently, optimum duration of maintenance on either is unclear. Better agents are needed to impact the brain changes related to addiction.

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