Methadone higher than buprenorphine for therapy retention in opioid dependence


Quitting medication like heroin and different opiates is hard, and the withdrawal signs, though not deadly, might be very uncomfortable. I’ve heard some individuals say that these medication ‘get in your bones’, and the detox or ‘rattle’ as it’s typically described is sort of a heavy dose of the flu.

Opioid dependence is way from a distinct segment downside with an estimated 40 million individuals globally experiencing this issue. So, it’s helpful to have an opiate substitute to assist wean people off their dependence on heroin and different related medication. Any such therapy is known as opioid agonist therapy or ‘OAT’ for brief. Two of probably the most broadly prescribed OAT substitutes are methadone and buprenorphine.

A current systematic assessment and meta-analysis by Degenhardt and colleagues (2023), printed in The Lancet Psychiatry, aimed to reply an essential and protracted query:

  • Which – if any – of the next drugs, buprenorphine and methadone, is efficient for the therapy of opioid dependence as assessed by a number of measures in randomised trials and observational research?
It is estimated that 40 million people globally struggle with opioid dependence.

It’s estimated that 40 million individuals globally wrestle with opioid dependence.


The authors had been thorough of their strategy to exploring this query. Looking out from the inception of databases like Medline or PsychInfo as much as August 2022 they discovered 83 randomised managed trials and 193 observational research. Altogether these research included simply over a million individuals, a formidable variety of individuals given the specialist nature of this therapy.

Previous to reviewing these research, the authors established major and secondary outcomes. Three major outcomes had been recognized:

  1. Retention in therapy
  2. Adherence to therapy
  3. Further opioid use over and above the prescribed remedy.

All three are essential elements when contemplating the effectiveness of OAT as an intervention. For instance, there may be proof that the longer somebody stays in therapy the larger their possibilities of success.

A variety of secondary outcomes had been proposed and these broadly fell into two teams:

  1. The primary was using different medication like cocaine and hashish, and
  2. the second was engagement with the felony justice system and any felony exercise.


The outcomes had been clear, based mostly on the first consequence of retention in therapy methadone was superior to buprenorphine. It’s encouraging to learn that that is based mostly on self-reporting i.e., shopper choice in addition to goal measurement.

For secondary outcomes there have been no statistically vital variations that could possibly be detected.

Based on self-report preference and objective measurement methadone was found superior to buprenorphine for treatment retention.

Primarily based on self-report choice and goal measurement, methadone was discovered superior to buprenorphine for therapy retention.


This is a vital piece of analysis which has answered a lingering query, specifically is considered one of these OAT medication (methadone or buprenorphine) superior to the opposite. Sure, is the reply relating to making certain individuals keep in therapy. Nonetheless, staying in therapy isn’t sufficient. We additionally have to know the right way to enhance the standard of life for these in therapy and contemplate any therapy preferences that they may have.

Different essential points embody decreasing contact with the felony justice system, enhancing psychological well being and decreasing use of different medication. These are simply as essential because the period of time spent in therapy given the excessive charges of co-occurring psychological well being issues that folks depending on opiates have, and the fact that most individuals will likely be utilizing multiple drug.

The findings of this study can help us enhancing the quality of life among people in treatment for opioid dependence.

Staying in therapy is a vital consequence, however we additionally want to consider how greatest to enhance the standard of life for individuals in therapy.

Strengths and limitations

It’s disappointing to learn but once more that solely half of the first research reported on the gender of individuals. That is such a primary however essential demographic. It shouldn’t take a lot effort for authors to collate and report gender. With out this variable how can we discern whether or not any intervention is efficient or not for ladies? There seems to be a cussed and protracted perspective amongst some researchers that gender doesn’t matter and that we are able to merely switch any analysis intelligence gathered from male individuals onto females, but we are able to’t.

The vast majority of research had been situated in North America and Europe. Nonetheless, the authors did discover some research from Africa and Asia, two components of the world that are usually under-reported. As with gender, we are able to’t assume that Western-orientated interventions will work in several cultures and areas with considerably differing well being and social infrastructure.

Caution is needed in the interpretation of the findings given that demographics on gender were not reported in this review.

Warning is required within the interpretation of the findings on condition that demographics on gender weren’t reported on this assessment.

Implications for observe

The clear implication for observe from this analysis is that relating to retaining people in therapy, methadone has the sting over buprenorphine. Nonetheless, time alone will not be sufficient. It’s simply as essential to contemplate shopper slightly than clinician choice as to which they want.

One of many essential causes for offering OAT along with relieving opioid withdrawal signs is encouraging behaviour change. Dependence on medication like opiates is usually about routine and behavior, whether or not this be the ritual of making ready the drug to be used or how it’s sourced, and the social contacts and id related to utilizing the drug. Erasing or at the very least altering these patterns might be as fiendishly troublesome as overcoming any physiological dependence on the drug. Years of entrenched behaviour received’t evaporate by introducing a substitute drug. Making certain there may be expert and well timed speaking remedy to accompany the pharmacological intervention is completely essential.

The involvement of patients in decision-making about their medication may be critical in treatment retention for opioid dependence.

The involvement of sufferers in decision-making about their remedy could also be essential in therapy retention for opioid dependence.

Assertion of pursuits

No competing pursuits.


Main paper

Degenhardt, L., Clark, B., Macpherson, G., Leppan, O., Nielsen, S., Zahra, E., Larance, B., Kimber, J., Martino-Burke, D., Hickman, M. and Farrell, M., 2023. Buprenorphine versus methadone for the therapy of opioid dependence: a scientific assessment and meta-analysis of randomised and observational researchThe Lancet Psychiatry.


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