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Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2014 Feb;77(2):272-84. doi: 10.1111/bcp.12031.

Long term outcomes of pharmacological treatments for opioid dependence: does methadone still lead the pack?

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Department of Psychiatry and CIBERSAM, University of Oviedo, 33006, Oviedo, Spain.


The aim of this review was to update and summarize the scientific knowledge on the long term outcomes of the different pharmacological treatment options for opioid dependence currently available and to provide a critical discussion on the different treatment options based on these results. We performed a literature search using the PubMed databases and the reference lists of the identified articles. Data from research show that the three pharmacological options reviewed are effective treatments for opioid dependence with positive long term outcomes. However, each one has its specific target population and setting. While methadone and buprenorphine are first line options, heroin-assisted treatment is a second line option for those patients refractory to treatment with methadone with concomitant severe physical, mental, social and/or functional problems. Buprenorphine seems to be the best option for use in primary care offices. The field of opioid dependence treatment is poised to undergo a process of reinforcement and transformation. Further efforts from researchers, clinicians and authorities should be made to turn new pharmacological options into clinical reality and to overcome the structural and functional obstacles that maintenance programmes face in combatting opioid dependence.


buprenorphine; buprenorphine/naloxone; heroin-assisted treatment; long term outcomes; methadone; opioid dependence

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