ARTICLE - Teens and Suboxone®
Teens and Suboxone®
… The Best Choice
Opiate Addicted Youth
Adolescents, Teens and Young Adults
Adolescent opioid addicts are on the rise, especially prescription opioids that have increased significantly by approximately 542 percent in the last decade. It was found in a 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that prescription opioids surpassed marijuana as the number one abused illegal drug. The rate of increase of prescription opioid use among adolescents is more than four times the rate of increase among adults.
According to Monitoring the Future, 2006, 8th, 10th and 12th graders, respectively:
Additionally, they showed that the prevalence of heroin use among these teens increased from 0.4 to 0.6 percent a decade ago to 1.0 to 1.6 percent more recently.
In 2007, it was reported that 232,000 adolescents reportedly misused just one of the many forms of prescription opioids — sustained-release oxycodone; while heroin was used by only 24,000 teens. Though most opioid users are white males, living in both rural and urban areas, it’s a big problem across the country. So, you see, the recreational use and dependence on heroin and other opioids among adolescents are significant.
The Importance of Intervention
The potential and far-reaching impact of prescription opioid and heroin use by teens may soon be epidemic. Adolescents generally begin by snorting, chewing or swallowing opioids and heroin but quickly progress to injections for greater highs. In 2007, 45 percent of opioid abuse by teens was done by injection.
The adolescent brain is markedly different from either the child or adult brain, displaying particular vulnerabilities to brain disruption by drugs. Progression from abuse to dependence is suspected to develop more quickly in teens over adults, since they experience significantly more rewarding effects from substance abuse than their adult counterparts. In addition to the concern of adolescent opioid abuse is the high risk of contracting hepatitis C and HIV by addicts who progress to injection as their means to a better and faster high.
Suboxone — Best Alternative for Teen Detox
Buprenorphone-nalaxone, sold as Suboxone, has been found as the best alternatives for most adolescents, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) experts. Little research and limited clinical study, however, has been done to address the uniqueness of adolescent dependency upon opioids.
One major trial was conducted, showing that teens on Suboxone do better than detoxing with clonidine, though most relapsed at the end of their six-week maintenance program. This research led experts to want more research on how teens respond when given a very slow, tapering down off the medication.
In December 1997, George E. Woody, M.D., gave the results of such a trial before the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry’s 18th Annual Meeting and Symposium. Dr. Woody was the lead investigator of the Clinical Trials Network Study of Suboxone-Facilitated Rehabilitation of Opioid-Dependent Adolescents and Young Adults, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Here is the breakdown of the 152 participants:
The study was done in six sites in the United States — three methadone clinics and three other sites. Major assessments of treatment and follow-up exams were conducted throughout the study. All participants were required to go into their clinics five-to-seven days a week for dosing.
Most treatment options involve detoxification and some type of psychosocial therapy. For this trial, the participants were randomized into two groups. Both groups had 12 weeks of twice-weekly drug counseling. One group had medical detoxification using Suboxone for two weeks, while the other group used Suboxone for the full 12 weeks with dosing tapering off during weeks nine through 12.
Here are the trial findings:
From these findings, experts have concluded that Suboxone is not only safe for use with adolescents but is recommended as the best treatment for teens with shorter histories of drug use, beginning first with short-term detox and then, if they relapse, placed on long-term Suboxone maintenance that is tapered off toward the end of the process.
Suboxone is becoming an important addition to existing treatment approaches for adolescents and young adults, especially those with short periods of opioid addictions and less psychological dependence. Additionally, the more flexible dosing ability with Suboxone (compared with methadone) makes it much more compatible with recovering addicts continuing their lives without interruption, whether it means teens can continue attending school or young adults continue going to work or college during detox. No more long, expensive absences that are hard to explain. Suboxone is the best choice for most adolescents and young adults addicted to opioids!
Compiled and authored by Dennis J. Hansen
Executive Director - New Beginnings Detox 2009
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