Treatment of heroin (diamorphine) addiction: current approaches and future prospects

Drugs. 2002;62(9):1331-43. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200262090-00004.


New pharmacological treatments for heroin (diamorphine) addiction include drugs that reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms and agents that are given during the maintenance phase of treatment. A variety of different types of pharmacological agents (opioid agonists, partial opioid agonists, opioid antagonists and alpha(2)-adrenoreceptor agonists) are reviewed and the evidence of their use during managed withdrawal and maintenance are presented. Experimental approaches attempting to reduce the time of opiate withdrawal and to accelerate the transition to abstinence are being developed. The combination tablet of buprenorphine and naloxone that is to be introduced for office-based maintenance is currently undergoing intense evaluation in the US. This new approach may facilitate the expansion of treatment while reducing the potential for medication diversion and intravenous use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy*
  • Heroin Dependence / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Opioid / agonists


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Opioid