A patch that delivers buprenorphine across the skin for 7 days can alleviate newly abstinent heroin abusers' opioid withdrawal symptoms, report Dr. George Bigelow and colleagues at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The patch represents a new way to deliver buprenorphine during opioid detoxification; currently, the medication is most often given as a sublingual tablet. At Johns Hopkins, 12 heroin-dependent inpatients who were given patches experienced easing of cramps, flushing, nausea, and restlessness within 24 hours. Their symptoms continued to decline over the week and did not return after patch removal. Additional medications to ease withdrawal symptoms were available, but clinicians administered these rarely throughout the 10-day study. The patch is not yet clinically available, but if future studies prove its safety and effectiveness for general use, it may reduce problems with missed tablets and minimize concerns about diversion of the opioid agonist/antagonist.
Psychopharmacology 198(2):149-158, 2008. [Abstract]