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Opioid Addiction

Opioids, like morphine, codeine and OxyContin®, are a class of drugs that are used to treat pain. While these medications are safe when used as prescribed by a physician, they are highly addictive when used indiscriminately or illicitly.

When an opioid dependent individual stops using drugs they experience withdrawal, including flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and muscle aches. Some people cannot stop taking opioids because they cannot tolerate withdrawal. Even once withdrawal symptoms have passed (usually about 7-10 days after discontinuing use of opioids) many people feel depressed and irritable because of long lasting changes in the brain, and the relapse rate of untreated opioid dependence is extremely high.

Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid drug that can be used as replacement therapy for patients who want to stop using opioids illicitly. Buprenorphine binds to the same receptor as other opioids, but it only partially stimulates the receptor. Patients taking buprenorphine do not get high from their medication, nor do they experience the "lows" associated with stopping opioid use "cold-turkey." Because Buprenorphine only partially stimulates the opioid receptor it has fewer side effects, such as decreased respiration, than other drugs (such as Methadone) in this class.

Changes in federal law allow physicians who have met certain training and accreditation requirements to prescribe Buprenorphine from private offices. ASAP has several accredited providers, and offers a Buprenorphine program for opioid addicted adolescents.

Patient Eligibility

Young men and women under the age of 21 with opioid dependence are candidates for the ASAP Suboxone program, if they meet the following conditions:

  • Interest in discontinuing opioids
  • Willingness to make a lifestyle change that includes discontinuing all alcohol and illicit drug use.
  • Parent or guardian available to store and distribute medication

For information about Boston Children's Hospital Adolescent Substance Abuse Program (ASAP), click here.


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