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      Health Related Quality of Life in Individuals Transferred from a Needle Exchange Program and Starting Opioid Agonist Treatment

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          Opioid agonist treatment (OAT), for the treatment of heroin dependence, has been reported to improve overall health and lower mortality. Drug use and retention in treatment have often been used as measures of treatment success. More recently, however, researchers have suggested that measurements of quality of life should be an outcome in substance use treatment evaluations. In a recent randomized controlled trial we demonstrated high rates of successful rapid referral from a needle exchange program (NEP) to OAT. The aim of this study was to see whether an improvement in health related quality of life (HRQoL) could be seen at 3-month follow-up after starting OAT and whether it was associated with any baseline characteristics. We also wanted to compare our sample to a sample from the general population with regard to HRQoL.


          This was a 3-month follow-up of 71 patients who started OAT. Measurements of HRQoL with EQ-5D (an instrument developed by the EuroQol group) were made at baseline and at three months.


          Mean EQ-5D VAS (visual analogue scale) for the study sample at baseline was 47.3, which was lower than a Swedish reference population reporting 83.3. Individuals reporting being prescribed a drug for a psychiatric condition had significantly lower EQ-5D index values. Improvement in EQ-5D index score was significantly less for individuals reporting previous overdoses (-0.10, p=0.025). Individuals reporting previous suicide attempts had significantly lower EQ-5D VAS score at baseline. A significant increase of the EQ-5D VAS difference over time was found with a mean difference of 10.94 (p=0.008) for the total sample.


          To our knowledge this is the first time HRQoL as an outcome is reported in a population transferred from a NEP to OAT. Our results indicate that OAT can result in increased HRQoL, even with this type of rapid low-threshold referral.

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          Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation.

          The effects of drug dependence on social systems has helped shape the generally held view that drug dependence is primarily a social problem, not a health problem. In turn, medical approaches to prevention and treatment are lacking. We examined evidence that drug (including alcohol) dependence is a chronic medical illness. A literature review compared the diagnoses, heritability, etiology (genetic and environmental factors), pathophysiology, and response to treatments (adherence and relapse) of drug dependence vs type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and asthma. Genetic heritability, personal choice, and environmental factors are comparably involved in the etiology and course of all of these disorders. Drug dependence produces significant and lasting changes in brain chemistry and function. Effective medications are available for treating nicotine, alcohol, and opiate dependence but not stimulant or marijuana dependence. Medication adherence and relapse rates are similar across these illnesses. Drug dependence generally has been treated as if it were an acute illness. Review results suggest that long-term care strategies of medication management and continued monitoring produce lasting benefits. Drug dependence should be insured, treated, and evaluated like other chronic illnesses. JAMA. 2000;284:1689-1695.
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            Polydrug abuse: a review of opioid and benzodiazepine combination use.

            This paper reviews studies examining the pharmacological interactions and epidemiology of the combined use of opioids and benzodiazepines (BZDs). A search of English language publications from 1970 to 2012 was conducted using PubMed and PsycINFO(®). Our search found approximately 200 articles appropriate for inclusion in this paper. While numerous reports indicate that the co-abuse of opioids and BZDs is ubiquitous around the world, the reasons for the co-abuse of these medications are not entirely clear. Though the possibility remains that opioid abusers are using BZDs therapeutically to self-medicate anxiety, mania or insomnia, the data reviewed in this paper suggest that BZD use is primarily recreational. For example, co-users report seeking BZD prescriptions for the purpose of enhancing opioid intoxication or "high," and use doses that exceed the therapeutic range. Since there are few clinical studies investigating the pharmacological interaction and abuse liability of their combined use, this hypothesis has not been extensively evaluated in clinical settings. As such, our analysis encourages further systematic investigation of BZD abuse among opioid abusers. The co-abuse of BZDs and opioids is substantial and has negative consequences for general health, overdose lethality, and treatment outcome. Physicians should address this important and underappreciated problem with more cautious prescribing practices, and increased vigilance for abusive patterns of use.
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              Buprenorphine maintenance versus placebo or methadone maintenance for opioid dependence

              Buprenorphine maintenance treatment has been evaluated in randomised controlled trials against placebo medication, and separately as an alternative to methadone for management of opioid dependence. To evaluate buprenorphine maintenance compared to placebo and to methadone maintenance in the management of opioid dependence, including its ability to retain people in treatment, suppress illicit drug use, reduce criminal activity, and mortality. We searched the following databases to January 2013: Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Review Group Specialised Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Current Contents, PsycLIT, CORK, Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia, Australian Drug Foundation, Centre for Education and Information on Drugs and Alcohol, Library of Congress, reference lists of identified studies and reviews. We sought published/unpublished randomised controlled trials (RCTs) from authors. Randomised controlled trials of buprenorphine maintenance treatment versus placebo or methadone in management of opioid-dependent persons. We used Cochrane Collaboration methodology. We include 31 trials (5430 participants), the quality of evidence varied from high to moderate quality.There is high quality of evidence that buprenorphine was superior to placebo medication in retention of participants in treatment at all doses examined. Specifically, buprenorphine retained participants better than placebo: at low doses (2 - 6 mg), 5 studies, 1131 participants, risk ratio (RR) 1.50; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19 to 1.88; at medium doses (7 - 15 mg), 4 studies, 887 participants, RR 1.74; 95% CI 1.06 to 2.87; and at high doses (≥ 16 mg), 5 studies, 1001 participants, RR 1.82; 95% CI 1.15 to 2.90. However, there is moderate quality of evidence that only high-dose buprenorphine (≥ 16 mg) was more effective than placebo in suppressing illicit opioid use measured by urinanalysis in the trials, 3 studies, 729 participants, standardised mean difference (SMD) -1.17; 95% CI -1.85 to -0.49, Notably, low-dose, (2 studies, 487 participants, SMD 0.10; 95% CI -0.80 to 1.01), and medium-dose, (2 studies, 463 participants, SMD -0.08; 95% CI -0.78 to 0.62) buprenorphine did not suppress illicit opioid use measured by urinanalysis better than placebo.There is high quality of evidence that buprenorphine in flexible doses adjusted to participant need,was less effective than methadone in retaining participants, 5 studies, 788 participants, RR 0.83; 95% CI 0.72 to 0.95. For those retained in treatment, no difference was observed in suppression of opioid use as measured by urinalysis, 8 studies, 1027 participants, SMD -0.11; 95% CI -0.23 to 0.02 or self report, 4 studies, 501 participants, SMD -0.11; 95% CI -0.28 to 0.07, with moderate quality of evidence.Consistent with the results in the flexible-dose studies, in low fixed-dose studies, methadone (≤ 40 mg) was more likely to retain participants than low-dose buprenorphine (2 - 6 mg), (3 studies, 253 participants, RR 0.67; 95% CI: 0.52 to 0.87). However, we found contrary results at medium dose and high dose: there was no difference between medium-dose buprenorphine (7 - 15 mg) and medium-dose methadone (40 - 85 mg) in retention, (7 studies, 780 participants, RR 0.87; 95% CI 0.69 to 1.10) or in suppression of illicit opioid use as measured by urines, (4 studies, 476 participants, SMD 0.25; 95% CI -0.08 to 0.58) or self report of illicit opioid use, (2 studies, 174 participants, SMD -0.82; 95% CI -1.83 to 0.19). Similarly, there was no difference between high-dose buprenorphine (≥ 16 mg) and high-dose methadone (≥ 85 mg) in retention (RR 0.79; 95% CI 0.20 to 3.16) or suppression of self-reported heroin use (SMD -0.73; 95% CI -1.08 to -0.37) (1 study, 134 participants).Few studies reported adverse events ; two studies compared adverse events statistically, finding no difference between methadone and buprenorphine, except for a single result indicating more sedation among those using methadone. Buprenorphine is an effective medication in the maintenance treatment of heroin dependence, retaining people in treatment at any dose above 2 mg, and suppressing illicit opioid use (at doses 16 mg or greater) based on placebo-controlled trials.However, compared to methadone, buprenorphine retains fewer people when doses are flexibly delivered and at low fixed doses. If fixed medium or high doses are used, buprenorphine and methadone appear no different in effectiveness (retention in treatment and suppression of illicit opioid use); however, fixed doses are rarely used in clinical practice so the flexible dose results are more relevant to patient care. Methadone is superior to buprenorphine in retaining people in treatment, and methadone equally suppresses illicit opioid use.

                Author and article information

                J Addict
                J Addict
                Journal of Addiction
                19 December 2018
                : 2018
                1Addiction Center Malmö, Division of Psychiatry, Sweden
                2Lund University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences Lund, Psychiatry, Lund, Sweden
                3Department of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Skåne, Malmö, Sweden
                Author notes

                Academic Editor: Markus Backmund

                Copyright © 2018 Martin Bråbäck et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article


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