Heroin users could be given an implant to help them overcome their drug addiction.

implantA matchstick-sized implant has been developed in the US to treat people who are dependent on opioids including heroin and morphine. The device, which is about an inch long, will be fitted in recovering addicts and will give them a steady dose of buprenorphine – medication used to treat opioid dependence.

Each implant will last for around six months and will reduce the risk of users forgetting to take a dose. At the moment buprenorphine is only available in tablet form or as a film which dissolves when it is placed under the tongue.

The implant known as Probuphine has now been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. Manufactured by Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the device could be introduced in other countries at some point in the future.

There are approximately 2.5 million people in America struggling to overcome an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers and 1.3 million of them are taking buprenorphine. Experts believe buprenorphine is safer than methodone, which is widely prescribed to heroin addicts in the UK, and giving it in implant form will reduce the risk of missed doses and relapses.

Medication plays role in long term recovery

Probuphine will be used as part of a long-term drug rehabilitation program and will only be prescribed to people who have already been taking buprenorphine for at least six months.

Drug testing can also play a key role in substance abuse recovery. Organisations including the Probation Service and courts may choose to test an individual at regular intervals to check they have not relapsed and started misusing illegal drugs again.

Employers may also use workplace testing to monitor staff members who are known to have struggled with addiction in the past or who are returning to work after a period of absence due to a drug problem.

Known as post-rehabilitation or return to work testing, this can allow workers to rebuild trust with their employers. It also acts as a valuable deterrent to recovering addicts as they know if they slip up and use drugs again, it will be detected by the tests.