Treatment of opioid-dependent adolescents and young adults with buprenorphine
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Rising rates of opioid use among teenagers and young adults are a public health concern. Despite short durations of opioid use compared with those of adults, youth with opioid dependence have a host of co-occurring conditions, including polysubstance abuse, psychiatric disorders, hepatitis C infection, HIV risk, and high-risk sexual and criminal behaviors. Opioid-dependent youth typically are offered outpatient/residential treatment with brief detoxification, but one study showed that heroin users fare worse following residential treatment. Although abundant research supports the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid-dependent adults, research is only recently emerging for youth. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, was proven safe and effective in improving abstinence from opioids in two controlled clinical trials. More research is needed to determine several clinically relevant areas: appropriate duration of agonist treatment, ways to enhance medication adherence, the value of integrated treatments for co-occurring conditions, and the role of opioid antagonists in opioid-dependent youth.
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