Many people who get the most common medication to treat opioid addiction are being prescribed opioid painkillers at the same time, a surprising finding that helps explain why even the most effective substance-abuse therapies don’t work nearly so well as experts say they should, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A study published yeterday in the journal Addiction determined that people tend to stop taking the treatment medication after an average of under two months — far less than the minimum six months or a year that experts say is likely needed for successful recovery.
Both findings illustrate the challenges of treating drug addiction in a world of distractions, temptations and competing incentives for profit among both patients and physicians. “We know from other settings that medication-assisted treatment works,” said lead author Caleb Alexander of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “However, it is a big difference between showing that effect in a clinical trial and showing that effect in the real world.” Researchers analyzed pharmacy data from 11 states for 38,000 adults who had been prescribed buprenorphine, a maintenance medication that is considered one of the most effective and fastest-growing treatments for opioid addiction, between 2010 and 2012.