Buprenorphine/naloxone, methadone and lofexidine are medications with utility in the treatment of opiate withdrawal. We report the first randomised controlled trial to compare the effects of these two medications on withdrawal symptoms and outcome during opiate induction/stabilisation and detoxification. A double-blind randomised controlled trial was conducted in an outpatient satellite clinic of a specialist drug service. Eighty opiate dependent individuals meeting DSM-IV criteria for opiate dependence, using ≤ 1/2 g heroin smoked/chased or 1/4 g heroin injected or ≤ 30mg methadone, with ≤ 3 years of opioid dependency, underwent a short-term opiate treatment programme involving induction/stabilisation on methadone 30mg or buprenorphine/naloxone 4mg/1mg, followed by detoxification (where the methadone group was assisted by lofexidine). The main outcome measures were urine drug screens for opiates and withdrawal and craving questionnaires. There were no overall differences in positive urine drug screens and drop-outs during any phase of the study. During induction/stabilisation, withdrawal symptoms subsided more slowly for buprenorphine/naloxone than for methadone, and craving was significantly higher in the buprenorphine/naloxone group (p<0.05, 95% confidence interval -3.5, -0.38). During detoxification, withdrawal symptoms were significantly greater and the peak of withdrawal was earlier for the methadone/lofexidine group than the buprenorphine/naloxone group (p<0.01, 95% confidence interval 3.0, 8.3). Methadone/lofexidine and buprenorphine/naloxone had comparable outcomes during rapid outpatient stabilisation and detoxification in low dose opiate users.
- opiate withdrawal