Herbal Medicines for the Management of Opioid Addiction

Safe and Effective Alternatives to Conventional Pharmacotherapy?

Abstract

Striking increases in the abuse of opioids have expanded the need for pharmacotherapeutic interventions. The obstacles that confront effective treatment of opioid addiction — shortage of treatment professionals, stigma associated with treatment and the ability to maintain abstinence — have led to increased interest in alternative treatment strategies among both treatment providers and patients alike. Herbal products for opioid addiction and withdrawal, such as kratom and specific Chinese herbal medications such as WeiniCom, can complement existing treatments. Unfortunately, herbal treatments, while offering some advantages over existing evidence-based pharmacotherapies, have poorly described pharmacokinetics, a lack of supportive data derived from well controlled clinical trials, and severe toxicity, the cause for which remains poorly defined. Herbal products, therefore, require greater additional testing in rigorous clinical trials before they can expect widespread acceptance in the management of opioid addiction.

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Acknowledgements

The authors declare no conflicts of interest. Dr Boyer is supported by NIH ARRA (Challenge) grant RC1-028428. No other sources of funding were used to prepare this review.

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Correspondence to Dr Jeanine Ward.

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Ward, J., Rosenbaum, C., Hernon, C. et al. Herbal Medicines for the Management of Opioid Addiction. CNS Drugs 25, 999–1007 (2011). https://doi.org/10.2165/11596830-000000000-00000

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Keywords

  • Heroin
  • Ginsenosides
  • Conditioned Place Preference
  • Panax Ginseng
  • Opioid Withdrawal