From the Archives: Treating Opioid Addiction

It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide; the US government estimates that 2.1 million people in the United States have substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and another 467,000 are addicted to heroin. Consequences include a spike in the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers (including the recent death of the musician Prince), and growing evidence to suggest a relationship between increased non-medical use of opioid analgesics and heroin abuse in the US.

OBrien_Charles_featWhat can we do to help? This spring, Charles O’Brien and colleagues reported results of the latest in a series of studies testing the drug naltrexone as a preventive against opioid relapse in people greatly at risk for relapse: formerly addicted convicts. “This U.S. multisite, open-label, randomized effectiveness trial showed that among adult offenders who had a history of opioid dependence, the rate of relapse was lower among participants assigned to extended-release naltrexone than among those assigned to usual treatment,” they write.

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National Recovery Month: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

OBrien_Charles_featThe month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This month, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Addiction Treatment. For more than thirty years, O’Brien has worked to improve addiction treatment and has made many breakthroughs regarding the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction?

Most physicians learn very little about addictive disorders in medical school or residency. Rather than being considered a disease of the brain, most see it as bad behavior. They don’t know that there are FDA approved medications and that patients do respond to treatment, even though “cures” are rare.

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Interview with Addiction Expert Charles P. O’Brien

It’s National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and who better to talk about current research and reasons for hope than addiction expert (and Dana grantee) Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D.?

Dr. O’Brien is the Vice Chair and Kenneth Appel Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and is an advocate of using medication to treat addiction. He is currently working with parolees who have a history of opiate addiction and relapse to examine the effectiveness of the medication naltrexone, a drug originally developed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the 1970s as a treatment for heroin addiction.

He discusses his research and opinions on the state of addiction treatment in the interview, “Ignorance and the Undertreatment of Addiction: Lessons from Prison.”

–Ann L. Whitman

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