The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new medication for the treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms—the first time this has happened in its history (Kim, 2018).
The medication, called lofexidine, is a nonopioid drug originally created for management of hypertension. It can “. . . address the physical symptoms of quitting opioid drugs, which include anxiety, agitation, sleep problems, muscle aches, runny nose, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and drug craving” (Kim, 2018). In a blog post, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, wrote, “Physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms play a major role in driving users repeatedly back to the drug, despite efforts to stop using” (2018).
There are drugs to curb opioid withdrawal symptoms—buprenorphine and methadone—but they are opioids, and lofexidine is not. Dr. Volkow stated that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) opioid medications like the ones previously mentioned are hard to access and “. . . only received by a minority of people with opioid use disorder” (Kim, 2018).
Lofexidine is approved for treatment for two weeks and might include side effects such as low blood pressure, slow heart rate, sleepiness, sedation, and dizziness (Kim, 2018). It is being marketed by US WorldMeds under the brand name “Lucemyra” this summer.
Kim, V. (2018). FDA approves first nonopioid medication to treat withdrawal symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/fda-approves-first-non-opioid-medication-treat-withdrawal-symptoms
Volkow, N. D. (2018). NIDA-supported science leads to first FDA-approved medication for opioid withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/05/nida-supported-science-leads-to-first-fda-approved-medication-opioid-withdrawal