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NIDA Launches a Study About Treating Addiction to Prescription Pain Killers

March 30, 2007

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AKINSO: In response to the growing national problem of prescription drug abuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has launched a national study evaluating a treatment for addiction to painkillers.   Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA’s Director, discussed the problem.  

DR. VOLKOW: It’s an addiction that has significantly increased over the past 5 years. It’s actually the number one addiction; the number of new people becoming addicted to it. Last year in fact, it surpassed the number of new initiates to marijuana. It has surpassed the number of treatment admissions for addiction to that very much covered by heroin.

AKINSO: The study will test the effectiveness of buprenophine in combination with naloxone tablets, along with different models of drug counseling in patients addicted to prescription painkillers.  Buphrenorphine works by acting on the brain’s own opiate receptors—targets heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers—relieving drug cravings without prompting the same intense high or dangerous side effects. Dr. Volkow said when combined with naloxone, buprenorphine’s abuse potential is further limited, since those who try to inject it to get high experience serve withdrawal symptoms, while no adverse effects occur when it is taken orally, as prescribed. She added that researchers must recognize the risk of addiction to pain medications and treatment for those who become addicted to them. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda Maryland.

This page was last updated March 2007

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