Opioid misuse, abuse, and dependence are global problems whose patterns vary across cultures. In the USA, the non-medical use of prescription opioids has become particularly serious because of its association with addiction and overdose death. Agonist and antagonist medications have been shown to be effective for opioid-dependent adults, and there is a growing body of data that they are also effective for youth. Here, we summarize evidence that detoxification alone results in high rates of treatment dropout and relapse but that the limited but growing data on the extended use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid-dependent youth have been positive. The implementation of medication-assisted treatment as a standard practice is feasible, easily integrated with counseling or psychotherapy, and has potential to greatly improve outcomes. Although concerns about safety and efficacy with youth require more research, and we do not advocate indefinite maintenance, we suggest that opioid-dependent youth should be considered as candidates for medication-assisted treatment delivered in a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate context, beginning at the first episode of care, with the strength of the recommendation to use medication increasing with each care episode.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Pharmacology (medical)