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The People's Pharmacy

New Drug Can't Help Addict Kick Her Habit

November 02, 1998|JOE GRAEDON and TERESA GRAEDON PhD

Question: I am a faithful reader of your column and a recovering narcotics addict. I have abused both prescription narcotics and street drugs, though I never used needles.

I was in a local methadone program, but it was a degrading experience, as bad as buying drugs on the street. Methadone also had terrible side effects for me, including numbness in arms and legs, major weight gain and thyroid problems.

I've been off methadone for two years, but I still abuse narcotics when I can get them. Please don't judge me or think I am an evil person unworthy of help. I am 30 years old, a wife and an educated person with no criminal record. I have been unable to stay clean longer than a few months.

I've heard about a drug called buprenorphine, and I'm wondering if it will be available soon and if it will help me.

Answer: Buprenorphine is available as Buprenex in an injectable form as a pain reliever. As an aid to help overcome addiction, however, it is considered an orphan drug [one that isn't likely to have a wide market] and there is no telling when an oral form will be approved.

Ask your doctor about ReVia (naltrexone). This medication is used to treat alcoholism. It can't be given while you are using a narcotic because it will precipitate withdrawal. But if you have been clean for seven to 10 days, you could take it. It can be helpful as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan and will block any euphoric effect from narcotics.

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Q: Many medications come with instructions such as "Take with meals," "Take at bedtime," etc. But when it says don't take with MAO inhibitors, I don't know what that means. My pharmacist doesn't give me a list. How can a conscientious patient protect himself?

A: MAO inhibitors block the enzyme monoamine oxidase. These drugs include the antidepressants Marplan, Nardil and Parnate. The anti-Parkinson's drug Eldepryl also affects MAO. Such interactions can be life-threatening.

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Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Send questions to them at People's Pharmacy, care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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