Results from a multisite, randomized trial led by researchers at the Center for Studies of Addiction at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania suggest that the once-a month drug naltrexone may be more effective than treatment modalities such as counseling and community treatment programs, and less controversial than daily treatment with methadone in preventing relapse among ex-prisoners addicted to opioids or heroin. The findings were published online last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Methadone remains a controversial option within the criminal justice system, as it is viewed as merely exchanging one addiction for another. Methadone’s salability and risk profile are additional sources of concern.
Naltrexone, an antagonist drug, was approved in 2010 by FDA for the treatment of opioid dependence. In this study of effectiveness in a high-risk population, 153 ex-prisoners completed a 6-month randomized trial of monthly injections of extended-release naltrexone and were compared to a control group of 155 patients who received counseling and or community treatment programs. 4 other centers joined Penn in the study. The group treated with naltrexone experienced a significantly reduced rate of relapse and a longer median time to relapse as compared to the controls. Additionally, while overdoses occurred among the controls, none were reported in the naltrexone group, even at 18 months post-treatment. Read more about the study findings here. The journal abstract may be read here.