SEP 18, 2015 4:15 PM PDT

Risks of Methadone in Treatment for Opioid Dependence

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
When patients begin treatment for dependence on opioids, they are five times as likely to die in the first four weeks when they are given the most commonly used treatment, methadone, rather than with an alternative treatment, buprenorphine, according to a study by researchers at the University of Bristol, King’s College London and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW in Australia
Methadone treatment can be risky in first month. 
The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, and reported in Drug Discovery & Development, reviewed the records of 32,033 patients who had started treatment with methadone or buprenorphine between 2001 and 2010. Those who began treatment with buprenorphine were less likely to die from any cause, including drug-related causes, in the first four weeks of treatment. Nonetheless, after four weeks there was little difference in risk of death between methadone and buprenorphine.
 
About 50,000 Australians (and more than 100,000 people in the UK) currently receive opioid pharmacotherapy treatment for dependence on heroin or other opioids. About two-thirds of these people are being treated with methadone and the remainder on buprenorphine, according to statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Buprenorphine is thought to be safer, because it is less likely to cause respiratory depression (breathing problems), but patients on buprenorphine are more likely to drop out of treatment than with methadone. Both of these treatments are endorsed by the World Health Organization.
 
According to Dr. Jo Kimber, one of the study’s lead authors and a researcher at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre UNSW and King’s College London, “Clinicians providing opioid substitution treatment face an important dilemma: which is more likely to reduce patient risk, buprenorphine or methadone? Buprenorphine is argued to have a superior safety profile to methadone but a higher drop-out rate. Our data suggest, at least at the beginning of treatment for heroin use, that buprenorphine has clear benefits over methadone in reducing mortality risk.”
 
As Professor Louisa Degenhardt at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and one of the study’s authors, explained, “The findings support a stepped approach to treatment. Opioid substitution therapy is proven to be a cost effective and safe treatment for opioid dependence. It not only reduces risk of death but also involvement in crime and imprisonment.”
 
Professor Matthew Hickman, professor of public health and epidemiology at the University of Bristol, concluded, “These findings are of importance to GPs treating patients with drug-dependency problems, one way to reduce risks might be to commence treatment on buprenorphine for the first four weeks and then switch to methadone at a later stage without increased risk.”
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
MAR 01, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 01, 2020
Treating Huntington's Disease With a Gene Therapy That Targets Brain Cells
A new therapeutic approach for Huntington's disease may aid patients with other neurodegenerative disorders.
FEB 26, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 26, 2020
Immunotherapy Could Be Used to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury
Video:  Further explaination of microglia and their various functions.  Traumatic Brain Injuries are physical ...
MAR 29, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 29, 2020
Anti-Inflammatory Injection May Prevent Memory Loss from Alzheimer's
Around 5.5 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, research has found that reducing the bod ...
APR 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 19, 2020
Flamingos Understand the Value of Friendship
Most of the time, wild flamingos are observed in massive flocks as opposed to hanging out on their own. It’s evide ...
APR 23, 2020
Technology
APR 23, 2020
Device That Mimic Brain Signaling
A decade ago, researchers hoped for a frontier of neuromorphic computing using a device known as ‘memristors&rsquo ...
MAY 04, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAY 04, 2020
Can Cannabis Improve Chronic Insomnia?
Around 30% of Americans have insomnia. A serious problem, researchers have found that cannabis products may be able to h ...
Loading Comments...