Induction of patients with moderately severe methadone dependence onto buprenorphine

Addict Biol. 2005 Jun;10(2):149-55. doi: 10.1080/13556210500123126.


Current clinical practice allows patients with low levels of physiological dependence on opioids (equivalent to methadone doses of 30 mg/d or less) to be transferred to buprenorphine. This study investigated the response of opioid-dependent patients receiving doses of methadone between 30-70 mg/d when transferred to buprenorphine at doses between 12-16 mg/d. Twenty-three patients receiving inpatient opioid detoxification agreed to take part in a trial of facilitated transfer to buprenorphine. Following the last morning dose of methadone, buprenorphine was substituted in doses increasing from 4 mg to a maximum of 16 mg, with adjunctive lofexidine (maximum of 2.4 mg/d). All except two patients successfully completed transfer to buprenorphine. To investigate the effect of initial methadone dose, the group was split into intermediate dose (ID; 30 - 49 mg/d; n = 10) and high dose (HD; 50-70 mg/d; n = 11) groups. Average stabilisation dose of buprenorphine for the sample who completed transfer was 14.0 mg/d (SD 2.3) and average daily lofexidine dose during transfer was 0.57 mg (SD 0.39). The HD group used significantly more lofexidine to complete transfer compared to the ID group. Increased opioid withdrawal symptoms, of mild severity as measured by the Short Opiate Withdrawal Scale (SOWS), were found in the HD group compared with the ID group during the first and last day of buprenorphine stabilisation. However, average SOWS scores for the whole of the period of transfer were not significantly different from those during the period of stabilisation on buprenorphine in either the ID or HD groups. This study suggests that transfer to buprenorphine is relatively uncomplicated from daily methadone doses of 30-70 mg in an inpatient setting and may be facilitated by use of lofexidine. This procedure may allow a larger proportion of opioid-dependent patients access to buprenorphine treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Clonidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Methadone
  • lofexidine