In 2007 it is estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 adolescents abused prescription opioids and it is thought that a number of these youngsters could become dependent on, or addicted to them. Buprenorphine and naloxone have been shown to be effective in treating opioid addiction but only limited use of these drugs has been recommended for younger people. A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania looked at 152 young people between the ages of 15 and 21. 55% were using heroin, 35% prescription opioids and 10% both. One group were given 12 weeks of treatment with buprenorphine and naloxone, the other group only 2 weeks. After eight weeks of treatment only 23% of those on the long-term treatment tested positive for opioids compared to 54% on the short-term therapy. However, after 12 weeks the gap had narrowed; 43% of those on the extended drug therapy tested positive compared to 51% in the short-term group. However, participants in the long-term group were much more likely to stay in treatment (70% vs 20.5%) and reported less use of opioids, cocaine and marijuana, less injecting and less need for additional addiction treatment.
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