Desipramine and contingency management for cocaine and opiate dependence in buprenorphine maintained patients

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2003 Jun 5;70(3):315-25. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(03)00032-2.


Co-dependence on opiates and cocaine occurs in about 60% of patients entering methadone treatment and has a poor prognosis. However, we recently found that desipramine (DMI) could be combined with buprenorphine to significantly reduce combined opiate and cocaine use among these dually dependent patients. Furthermore, contingency management (CM) has been quite potent in reducing cocaine abuse during methadone maintenance. To test the efficacy of combining CM with these medications we designed a 12-week, randomized, double blind, four cell trial evaluating DMI (150 mg/day) or placebo plus CM or a non-contingent voucher control in 160 cocaine abusers maintained on buprenorphine (median 16 mg daily). Cocaine-free and combined opiate and cocaine-free urines increased more rapidly over time in those treated with either DMI or CM, and those receiving both interventions had more drug-free urines (50%) than the other three treatment groups (25-29%). Self reported opiate and cocaine use and depressive and opioid withdrawal symptoms showed no differences among the groups and symptom levels did not correlate with urine toxicology results. Lower DMI plasma levels (average 125 ng/ml) were associated with greater cocaine-free urines. DMI and CM had independent and additive effects in facilitating cocaine-free urines in buprenorphine maintained patients. The antidepressant appeared to enhance responsiveness to CM reinforcement.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / urine
  • Connecticut
  • Desipramine / therapeutic use
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / urine
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine
  • Desipramine