In the first long-term follow-up of patients treated with buprenorphine/naloxone (Bp/Nx) for addiction to opioid pain relievers, half reported that they were abstinent from the drugs 18 months after starting the therapy. After 3.5 years, the portion who reported being abstinent had risen further, to 61 percent, and fewer than 10 percent met diagnostic criteria for dependence on the drugs.
“Our findings are cause for optimism for these specific patients,” says Dr. Roger Weiss, of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who co-led the study. The findings indicate that two factors strongly influence patients’ chances for recovery from addiction to pain relievers:
At each follow-up, patients who told interviewers that they were currently engaged in opioid agonist therapy were much more likely to report that they were abstinent than those who were not using the medications. Patients who had ever used heroin had poorer odds of overcoming their pain reliever addiction than those who had never done so.