Treatment of opioid-dependent adolescents and young adults with buprenorphine

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Oct;11(5):360-3. doi: 10.1007/s11920-009-0054-5.


Rising rates of opioid use among teenagers and young adults are a public health concern. Despite short durations of opioid use compared with those of adults, youth with opioid dependence have a host of co-occurring conditions, including polysubstance abuse, psychiatric disorders, hepatitis C infection, HIV risk, and high-risk sexual and criminal behaviors. Opioid-dependent youth typically are offered outpatient/residential treatment with brief detoxification, but one study showed that heroin users fare worse following residential treatment. Although abundant research supports the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid-dependent adults, research is only recently emerging for youth. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, was proven safe and effective in improving abstinence from opioids in two controlled clinical trials. More research is needed to determine several clinically relevant areas: appropriate duration of agonist treatment, ways to enhance medication adherence, the value of integrated treatments for co-occurring conditions, and the role of opioid antagonists in opioid-dependent youth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Young Adult


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine