Opioid dependence is a chronic disorder that produces changes in brain pathways that remain long after the patient stops taking the drug. These protracted brain changes put the dependent person at greater risk of relapse. Detoxification can be successful in cleansing the person of drugs and withdrawal symptoms; it does not address the underlying disorder, and thus is not the adequate treatment. Maintenance with methadone or naltrexone is the usual practice in the long-term management of opioid dependence but both drugs have their own disadvantages because no single medication is appropriate for every individual for treating their opioid dependence, it is important that clinicians have a variety of the therapeutic agents available to them.
Calcium channel blockers, such as verapamil, diltiazem, nifedipine, nimodipine, and felodipine are useful drugs being used in cardiovascular disorders, such as hyper-tension, arrhythmias, and ischaemic heart disease. Research on calcium channel blockers has proved their therapeutic potential in a variety of disorders such as asthma, diarrhoea, premature labour, and diseases of central nervous system such as epilepsy, and opioid dependence. Modern drugs are not only expensive and beyond the reach of majority of the population of world but also have multiple side effects. Hence there is a need to explore such drugs from indigenous sources and to observe if combination of desired therapeutic efficacy exists in nature.
Nigella Sativa is in use for the treatment of variety of ailments since ancient times. Research has based its many effects on their efficacy of blocking calcium channels. As calcium channels have been tried for the treatment of opioid dependence, so Nigella Sativa was used in this study. This study was carried out on 50 patients who were divided into two groups. Patients were admitted for 12 days and then weekly followed up for 12 weeks.
Each patient received placebo orally during day-1 and day-2 of admission. Thereafter Nigella Sativa was given to the patients from day-3 of admission to eighth week. Then the dose of each drug was tapered off during 9th and 10th weeks and then no treatment was given during last two weeks.
It was observed that Nigella Sativa showed a rapid improvement in signs and symptoms of acute opioid abstinence. It was also observed that Nigella Sativa prevented the development of significant craving and relapse. It is concluded that Nigella Sativa is effective in long term management of opioid dependence and it is suggested that further long term follow up studies may be designed with greater number of patients.
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