New Drugs to Combat Opiate Dependency

For the people who wish to free themselves from their opioid dependence, there are many new choices to help them achieve their goal. There are new drugs that have been approved for use that will help relieve withdrawal symptoms.

For the people who wish to free themselves from their opioid dependence, there are many new choices to help them achieve their goal. There are new drugs that have been approved for use that will help relieve withdrawal symptoms. And lately, the US FDA has also approved an implant that will provide buprenorphine into the bloodstream for up to six months at a time.

New Drugs The US FDA Has Approved For 2017 To Fight Opioid Addiction


The first new drug is called Zubsolv that combines buprenorphine and naloxone, both of which have been used to treat opiate addiction. Zubsolv, which is made by Swedish drugmaker Orexo, is a tablet that dissolves under the tongue and comes in a menthol flavor. Like other treatments, this is to be used as a maintenance treatment with counseling and psychosocial support, for those suffering from opiate addiction. But patients will require less of this drug to achieve the same results as currently used treatments. Others like Suboxone, Subutex and Bunavail, come as film strips to be dissolved under the tongue.

They have been introduced over the last decade and are also highly effective in helping patients with their opioid dependence. But beware of abuse of these treatments, for they can also lead to addiction. Suboxone, because it’s popularly prescribed, has produced its own addiction epidemic as well as a few deaths from abusing it. These particular treatment drugs are to be placed under the tongue, while patients have been known to dissolve the film in water and inject the drug directly into the bloodstream, causing complications and death. This is why Zubsolv is considered a breakthrough. As a tablet, it cannot be dissolved as easily.


The FDA has also approved a buprenorphine implant called Probuphine that will provide a constant low-level dose for six months in patients who are already on a complete treatment program. The drug consists of four one inch rods that are implanted in the skin of the forearm. The reason for the implant is that, like with taking any pill, they are easily forgotten or skipped, making the recovery journey that much more bumpy. This way, the patient need not worry about the daily pill and can deal with other issues.

Lofexidine Hydrochloride

The other opioid withdrawal drug is Lofexidine Hydrochloride, which is the first non-narcotic and non-addictive medication approved by the FDA. In the United Kingdom, as BritLofex, it has been used to detoxify over 200,000 opiate addicts successfully. It suppresses the release of adrenaline in the body’s nervous system, thereby reducing some of the withdrawal symptoms. It does not reduce the cravings. This drug is an adrenergic receptor agonist, which means that it stimulates the central nervous system’s receptors to produce a physical reaction – the lessening of the withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone And Buprenorphine

Previously, there were only two drugs that were used for the treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms, and they are methadone and buprenorphine (with and without naloxone). Unfortunately, both still make the body physically dependent on them. Therefore, it is nice to find a drug that is non-narcotic and non-addictive like lofexidine that can help patients manage debilitating withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate detoxification such as vomiting; sweating; stomach cramps; diarrhea; and muscle pain without more dependency.


Recently, naltrexone has been added to the non-narcotic treatments for opioid dependence as well as alcohol addiction. It is in the class of opiate receptor antagonists, which means that it blocks the effects of opioid drugs. It cannot reduce the cravings, though. It is used as a once-a-month injection to prevent relapse after detoxification.

Both lofexidine and naltrexone have been used concurrently in rapid detoxification cases. The naltrexone is given to block the opioid receptors, thereby sending the patient into immediate withdrawal and accelerating the detoxification process, while the lofexidine is given to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. If no other opiates are introduced, effective detoxification is about three days with this combination. Usually, with lofexidine by itself, detox is about ten days.

Studies Into Opioid Dependence Vaccines

Scientists have been experimenting with an addiction vaccine, something that would make it impossible for a recovering addict to get high, should they decide to relapse and seek their drug of choice. The scientists have been working on a vaccine since the 1990’s when fentanyl became a problem. In the 1990’s a nicotine vaccine was developed, but it failed in trials. With the new epidemics of opiate abuse, there is now renewed interest in a polyvalent vaccine, one which will attack several different drugs. The way the vaccine would work is to “teach” the body’s immune system to attack the various drug molecules as they come into the bloodstream, before making it to the receptors in the brain.

The biggest obstacle to making this vaccine a reality is funding. Most big pharma companies aren’t interested in funding addiction research. Despite this, it is still a promising alternative treatment option and with the right formulation and more experimentation, can be a new and creative solution to opioid dependence.