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Implants help heroin addicts kick habit

Installing slow-release drug under skin enables some abusers to get through withdrawal


People addicted to heroin or prescription opiates might have a hands-free device for getting through the rigors of drug withdrawal. The medication buprenorphine implanted under the skin and released over 24 weeks can ease drug cravings and helps some patients stay clean, researchers report in the Oct. 13 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Buprenorphine is a semisynthetic opioid compound prescribed for pain relief and for addiction withdrawal. Buprenorphine works something like methadone, a synthetic opioid developed in the 1930s. Both drugs are prescribed for withdrawal from addiction to heroin or prescription pain relievers such oxycodone, Dilaudid, codeine and Vicodin.

But buprenorphine in tablet form can be misused by patients who crush the pills, liquefy them and inject them for a stronger effect.

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