Shorter Drug Rehab for Opioid Addiction Associated with Higher Relapse Rate
The national epidemic involving opioid addictions to prescription painkillers is resulting in new strategies designed to help in recovery. Those struggling with painkiller addictions do not fit the typical drug addict profile. Many are middle-age, middle-class individuals who became addicted to opioids following a legitimate prescription for a chronic pain problem.
As a result, many individuals are reluctant to participate in traditional drug rehab programs. Many are attempting to recover from their addiction using an abbreviated treatment course, involving counseling and administration of buprenorphine to address the problems.
A study was recently presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, which found that when individuals addicted to opioids are given a shorter treatment course, they are more prone to relapse. The study is the largest study of its kind ever conducted. The researchers focused on examining whether intense counseling combined with buprenorphine could improve outcomes, whether the continuation of a chronic pain problem affects relapse and how to determine the correct duration of medication treatment.
In their analysis, the researchers found that when individuals being treated in a modified drug rehab program tapered off their buprenorphine medication over a 9-month recovery, they were very likely to experience a relapse. The effects were almost universal, despite whether the individual tapered off buprenorphine use initially or after improvement was measured.
Roger D. Weiss, MD, is the chief of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at McLean Hospital located in Belmont and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Dr. Weiss explained that this is one of the first studies to provide information about the treatment of prescription opioid addiction, despite the drastic increase in opioid addictions reported.
The purpose of the study, says Dr. Weiss, was to help physicians who are seeking to help patients with an opioid dependency that are refusing treatment in a traditional drug rehab program.
To analyze the effectiveness of the abbreviated treatment course, the researchers recruited 653 individuals with a prescription opioid dependency. Treatment included standard offerings, such as buprenorphine, an initial office visit, and 20-minute sessions conducted weekly with a physician that involved a counseling aspect and monitoring of the patient for adverse effects of the medication.
Half of the group also received enhanced treatment for drug rehab, including two weekly 60-minute drug counseling sessions that dealt with interpersonal factors.
The study’s results show that while nearly all of the patients in the shorter treatment program experienced relapse, a significant number of individuals in the enhanced treatment drug rehab program achieved a successful recovery.