Prescription-abused adolescents or illicit opiates could benefit from opioid treatment drugs, according to a new study by a Yale researcher.
An estimated 900 adolescents have started abusing opioid painkillers every day in 2017, and some have turned to cheaper and more powerful opiate opiates such as heroin. However, little is known about the efficacy of opioid drugs – the recommended treatment for adults with opioid use disorder – in adolescents under the age of 18 years.
The research group, led by assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine Deepa Camenga, M.D., looked in the scientific literature for studies examining the effect of drugs for the treatment of opioids in adolescents. Their review suggested that adolescents with a severe opioid use disorder can be treated with medications.
Although only 14 reports were identified between 1973 and 2018, all favored treatment with one of three drugs for opioid use disorder: methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone.
The studies revealed that these drugs increased the number of adolescents who remained in treatment, decreased their opioid use and increased abstinence, the researchers said.
"Adolescents with severe opioid use disorder can benefit from a drug as part of a larger comprehensive treatment plan," Camenga said. Only 2% -5% of adolescents with opioid use disorder receive drug treatment.
The dangers of leaving untreated opioid addiction far outweigh the risks of drugs, they noted. More research is needed to determine how long teenage patients should receive drug treatment and how to keep them on treatment, the researchers said.
"Parents should try to consult a healthcare professional and, if they are able, an addiction psychiatrist or addiction medicine specialist to see if the drugs can benefit their child," Camenga said. The authors stressed the need to improve adolescent access to care and the ability of providers to care for this population.
The study was published by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Other authors of the study are Hector A. Colon-Rivera and Srinivas B. Muvvala. This work is funded in part by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Dependency Services. The opinions and opinions expressed in the research are those of the authors and not of the State of Connecticut or the Department of mental health and addiction services.
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