Medication with Counseling May Improve Heroin Treatment

A University of Buffalo (UB) study finds that a combination of medication and family treatment could improve the success rate for individuals addicted to heroin, the UB Reporter reported Dec. 18.

The study involved 124 men who were entering treatment for heroin addiction. They were assigned either to a treatment approach that combined behavioral family counseling and the use of the medication naltrexone or a program that featured individual treatment with naltrexone.

In behavioral family counseling, a family member watched the patient take naltrexone, while in individual-based treatment, the patient was not observed.

The study found that the group receiving behavioral family counseling was 81 percent heroin-free during treatment and 69 percent heroin-free one year after treatment. The men receiving individual-based treatment were heroin-free 56 percent of their days in treatment and 49 percent clean a year after treatment.

"Although use of naltrexone with patients who abuse heroin is effective, few patients are willing to take it. As a result, it is very rarely prescribed in clinical practice," said clinical psychologist William Fals-Stewart, lead researcher of the study and a senior research scientist in UB's Research Institute on Addictions and research associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences. "However, family members supporting the patients' daily use of naltrexone increases their compliance and leads to better outcomes. This combination of family support with naltrexone therapy appears to be an effective method to increase compliance with this powerful and effective medication."

The study's findings are published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.


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