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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Oct 5;(10):CD004147. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004147.pub4.

Psychosocial combined with agonist maintenance treatments versus agonist maintenance treatments alone for treatment of opioid dependence.

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Department of Epidemiology, ASL RM/E, Via di Santa Costanza, 53, Rome, Italy, 00198.



Maintenance treatments are effective in retaining patients in treatment and suppressing heroin use. Questions remain regarding the efficacy of additional psychosocial services.


To evaluate the effectiveness of any psychosocial plus any agonist maintenance treatment versus standard agonist treatment for opiate dependence


We searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group trials register (June 2011), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (Issue 6, 2011), PUBMED (1996 to 2011); EMBASE (January 1980 to 2011); CINAHL (January 2003 to 2011); PsycINFO (1985 to 2003) and reference list of articles.


Randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trial comparing any psychosocial plus any agonist with any agonist alone for opiate dependence.


Two authors independently assessed trial quality quality and extracted data.


35 studies, 4319 participants, were included. These studies considered thirteen different psychosocial interventions. Comparing any psychosocial plus any maintenance pharmacological treatment to standard maintenance treatment, results do not show benefit for retention in treatment, 27 studies, 3124 participants, RR 1.03 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.07), abstinence by opiate during the treatment, 8 studies, 1002 participants, RR 1.12 (95% CI 0.92 to 1.37), compliance, three studies, MD 0.43 (95% CI -0.05 to 0.92), psychiatric symptoms, 3 studies, MD 0.02 (-0.28 to 0.31), depression, 3 studies, MD -1.70 (95% CI -3.91 to 0.51) and results at the end of follow up as number of participants still in treatment, 3 studies, 250 participants, RR 0.90 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.07) and participants abstinent by opioid, 3 studies, 181 participants, RR 1.15 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.36). Comparing the different psychosocial approaches, results are never statistically significant for all the comparisons and outcomes.


For the considered outcomes, it seems that adding any psychosocial support to standard maintenance treatments do not add additional benefits. Data do not show differences also for contingency approaches, contrary to all expectations. Duration of the studies was too short to analyse relevant outcomes such as mortality. It should be noted that the control intervention used in the studies included in the review on maintenance treatments, is a program that routinely offers counselling sessions in addition to methadone; thus the review, actually, did not evaluate the question of whether any ancillary psychosocial intervention is needed when methadone maintenance is provided, but the narrower question of whether a specific more structured intervention provides any additional benefit to a standard psychosocial support. These interventions probably can be measured and evaluated by employing diverse criteria for evaluating treatment outcomes, aimed to rigorously assess changes in emotional, interpersonal, vocational and physical health areas of life functioning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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