October 11, 2011
Buprenorphine Treatment of Opioid Dependence in Adolescents and Young Adults
Sharon Levy, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Children's Hospital Boston
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School
Ximena Sanchez-Samper, M.D.
Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Children's Hospital Boston
Instructor, Harvard Medical School
Opioid dependence among adolescents is a growing problem in the United States. According to data from the Monitoring the Future study which surveys adolescents in high school, use of ‘narcotics other than heroin’ by teenagers has doubled over the past ten years.
A large body of evidence has demonstrated that buprenorphine is effective in treating opioid dependent adults, both for detoxification and long term maintenance; however, there is little consensus regarding the optimal length of medication treatment for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. Few medication studies have included adolescents, but accumulating evidence suggests that opioid replacement therapy can be effective in reducing relapse rates with adolescent populations by stabilizing neurochemistry, ameliorating withdrawal, and curbing cravings.
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