UCSF study to combat prescription drug addiction
Photo courtesy Wonderland
By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service
April 18, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The University of California, San
Francisco, will participate in the first national effort to study
how drugs used to treat heroin addiction might be used to treat
prescription drug addiction, the university announced today.
According to the university, an estimated 2.2 million Americans
age 12 and older start using prescription pain medications for
non-medical reasons each year, surpassing the number of new marijuana
"Opiate addiction is well studied in heroin dependence,
but very little is known about what treatments are effective with
this group of people," said Yong Song, co-principal investigator
of the UCSF study site.
Song said data shows prescription drug use is on the rise in
San Francisco and elsewhere. He said recreational prescription
drug use has become an increasing trend. He said significant spikes
in use occurred in 2002.
According to Song, "It is not uncommon for people to have
wisdom teeth pulled, and they have some kind of opiate they were
prescribed in the house, and there are some people who become
dependent after using it for a medical reason."
Song said since drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin are prescribed,
people might think they are safer than other opiates such as heroin.
He said that while prescription opiates do not inherently threaten
the physical health of individuals if used as prescribed, addiction
to these drugs can be devastating.
According to Song, prescription drug addiction may be on the
rise because in addition to the feelings of euphoria the drugs
provide, they may also be easier to obtain than other drugs.
"A lot of patients are getting pain meds online. The Internet
is a source for off-shore pharmacies. People can get drugs mailed
to their homes," said Song.
"You might not have to interface with a drug dealer or go
to a sketchy neighborhood," he said, "and in many countries
prescriptions are not required to purchase pain medication,"he
The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more
than 6 million Americans reported using prescription drugs for
non-medical reasons in a month, which is more than the number
using cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined, according
Song said users of prescription drugs tend to come from a different
demographic than heroin users. Users tend to be younger, with
fewer dependency issues, such as alcohol or cocaine addiction
and often come from middle class backgrounds.
"The abuse of prescription opiates has become a very serious
problem in our society, but until now, there have been no large-scale
studies to evaluate how to treat those addictions," said
Dr. Stephen Dominy, who is leading the study at UCSF.
"This study hopes to assess whether the current opiate dependence
therapies are effective, as well as the role of counseling in
The study, which will take place at 11 locations across the U.S.,
seeks to enroll 648 people who are addicted to prescription drugs,
54 of whom will be treated at UCSF over the next 18 months, according
to the university.
Those interested in participating in the study will be compensated
and should contact (415) 476-4047
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