Implant to Fight Multi-Drug Addiction

Naltrexone implant may help people addicted to multiple drugs fight their dependence

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Naltrexone can counteract the effects of heroine or alcohol and can be helpful for people trying to kick addiction. New research suggests it is helpful for people addicted to more than one drug.

The naltrexone implant delivers a steady dose and does not require the patient to remember to take the medication.

When patients who were addicted to both heroine and amphetamines were given the implant, they were more likely to stay in treatment and showed improvement in their condition.

"Seek help if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol."

Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors and has been helpful in treating addiction to alcohol or heroine because it blocks the good feelings that those drugs can create. However, many patients are addicted to multiple drugs.

A recent study, led by Jari Tiihonen, MD, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland, asked 100 patients who were addicted to both heroine and amphetamines to join the study. Patients received the naltrexone implant or a placebo implant. The naltrexone implant is placed under the skin of the abdomen.

The researchers looked at how long patients stayed in treatment, how well they were doing overall, and the amount of drug-free urine samples they had during the 10 week study.

Drug addiction treatment is difficult because people often drop out of treatment early. This study found that 52 percent of patients using the naltrexone implant stayed in the 10 week treatment. This is in contrast to only 28 percent of placebo patients that finished the 10 week treatment.

The naltrexone implant also helped patients addicted to both heroine and amphetamine to have fewer positive drug screens and improved their clinical condition in general.

Naltrexone implants allow stable dosing of the medication and do not rely on the individual to take medication. They have been proven helpful for alcohol or heroine addiction, when only one drug is the target of the addiction. This is the first study to show the possible usefulness of the naltrexone implant for polydrug addiction.

More research is needed to know if the naltrexone implant is helpful for people addicted to other combinations of drugs and if the benefits seen here will improve long-term outcomes for the patients.  

The study was published in the May 2012 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. Authors of this paper report financial affiliations with AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Hoffman-La Roche, Janssen-Cilag, Lundbeck, and Organon, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Pfizer.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 8, 2012
Last Updated:
May 9, 2012