Naltrexone implants after in-patient treatment for opioid dependence: randomised controlled trial.


Kunøe N., Lobmaier P., Vederhus J.K. et al.
British Journal of Psychiatry: 2009, 194, p. 541–546.

In the first randomised trial, implants which block opiate-type drugs for months helped heroin addicts in Norway avoid relapse after detoxification. If these or allied products gain a UK licence, they could help pave the way to abstinence for the minority of suitable addicts.


Naltrexone is a medication which blocks the effects of heroin and other opiate-type drugs. Its considerable potential in helping to prevent post-detoxification relapse has not been realised because patients generally refuse to take it or quickly discontinue. However, these limitations apply to the oral formulation which has be taken daily. Longer-lasting formulations in the form of a depot injection or an implant inserted under the skin avoid the need to take the medication daily. This is the first randomised trial of an implant whose opiate-blocking effects last for about six months.

Over 18 months from January 2006, staff at inpatient drug clinics in south-eastern Norway invited opiatedependent patients on abstinence�oriented programmes to participate in the study. Patients who agreed were contacted by researchers at the end of their detoxification or residential treatment. The 56 who joined the study were told that for the first six months they would be randomly allocated to the implant or to usual aftercare arrangements, but that then all would be offered (re)implantation. Typically they were male injectors in their 30s who had used heroin for on average seven years; nearly all also used other drugs.

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