The National Institute on Drug Abuse has highlighted new findings suggesting that a commonly used blood-pressure medication can extend opioid abstinence when used in tandem with other medication-assisted treatments. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, reported that the drug clonidine was useful in improving the results of medication-assisted treatment when combined with buprenorphine, one of the primary drugs used to treat opioid dependence.
Clonidine is normally used to treat high blood pressure and ADHD. According to the report from NIDA, when used with buprenorphine, it helps to block the effects of opioid withdrawal. But that’s not all: researchers also found that the addition of clonidine alleviated the stress symptoms that can accompany withdrawal. Addiction experts have long known that stress is both an impediment to recovery and a common factor in relapse. In the study of clonidine in medication-assisted treatment, subjects experienced less stress-related craving and were able to maintain opioid abstinence for longer periods of time.
Buprenorphine was approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat opioid dependence and is currently one of only three approved drugs used in medication-assisted treatment. Recent media reports have criticized the relative scarcity of buprenorphine treatment in U.S. court and treatment systems. Many have asked why medications that block the effects of opiate addiction are not more commonly prescribed to help addicts achieve sobriety. However, these drugs have had a troubled history of being abused themselves. Research is ongoing to fine-tune such medications so that they can be safely and efficiently prescribed.[Photo by Kphotographer licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0]