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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2008 Dec;35(4):451-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Evaluation of ongoing oxycodone abuse among methadone-maintained patients.

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Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.


Prevalence of prescription opioid abuse has increased dramatically in recent years in the United States generally, and a similar pattern of increasing prescription opioid use has also been noted among patients seeking treatment for opioid dependence. This study presents results from an internal quality assurance project conducted by an outpatient methadone maintenance (MM) treatment clinic which sought to examine the extent of ongoing oxycodone abuse among patients that might be going undetected with current urinalysis-testing methods. One hundred five MM patients provided 437 urine samples over a 6-week period. Samples were analyzed using the clinic's usual enzyme multiplied immunoassay test (EMIT) opiate assay (300 ng/ml opiate cutpoint) and a supplemental oxycodone test strip (100 ng/ml oxycodone cutpoint). The EMIT assay identified only 6% (20/437) of samples as positive for oxycodone, whereas the oxycodone test strip indicated that 19% (83/437) tested positive for recent oxycodone use. Inspection of patient characteristics revealed that oxycodone users were more likely to report a prescription opioid as their primary drug at intake, be in MM treatment for a significantly shorter duration, and provide significantly more opioid- and cocaine-positive urine samples. Overall, these data illustrate the potential importance of monitoring for ongoing oxycodone use in MM clinics. Although future efforts should examine this question using more rigorous experimental methods, findings from this initial project have implications for clinical issues such as evaluating patient stability in treatment, making medication-dosing decisions, and determining patient eligibility for methadone take-home privileges.

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