Buprenorphine treatment outcome in dually diagnosed heroin dependent patients: A retrospective study

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;30(2):265-72. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2005.10.007. Epub 2005 Nov 23.


The present study compared retrospectively in a clinical non-experimental setting the efficacy of buprenorphine (BUP) in different subgroups of dually diagnosed and non-dually diagnosed opioid-dependent patients: all the subjects included in the study showed severe long-lasting heroin addiction and 68.4% were affected by psychiatric comorbidity. Participants (206) (mean age 32.2+/-8.9, 177 males-29 females) were applicants to a long-term buprenorphine treatment program (mean doses 7.9+/-0.42 mg). Aim of the study was to evaluate dual diagnosis variables possibly influencing retention rate and abstinence from illicit drugs. The patients were divided into 5 subgroups on the basis of dual diagnosis: group 1: major depression (MD) 29.61%; group 2: generalized anxiety (GAD) (11.2%); group 3: personality disorders (PD), antisocial-borderline (21.84%); group 4: schizophrenia (SC)(6.3%); group 5: substance use disorder without overt psychiatric comorbidity (SUD) (31.1%). Group 1 patients affected by MD showed the highest retention rate at 12 months (72.1%) in comparison with the other groups of patients: group 2 GAD (39.1%), group 3 PD (17.8%), group 4 SC (7.7%) and group 5 SUD, without comorbidity (45.3%) (p=0.006, p<0.001, p<0.001, p=0.002). Similarly, at 12 months, the patients affected by MD showed less risk of illicit opioid use (16.4%) than those affected by GAD (34.8%), PD (42.2%), SC (53.8%) and SUD without comorbidity (34.4%) (p=0.06, p=0.003, p=0.008, p=0.017). When evaluated on the whole sample, retention rate was not influenced by dose. In contrast, the higher BUP doses were associated with less risk of illicit opioid use, than lower doses (p<0.001). Multivariate analysis and factor analysis showed a greater association of outcome measures (retention rate and negative urines rate) with comorbid diagnosis (depression) (respectively 0.64) than with buprenorphine doses (respectively 0.54). Our data need to be interpreted with caution because of the retrospective methodology applied to a clinical non-experimental setting. BUP seems to be more effective in opioid-dependent patients affected by depression, probably due to the kappa opioid-receptors antagonist action, counteracting dysphoria, negativism and anxiety. High doses of BUP appear to predict a better outcome, in terms of negative urines, but not in terms of retention.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Anxiety / urine
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Buprenorphine / urine
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / complications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / urine
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / complications
  • Heroin Dependence / diagnosis*
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy*
  • Heroin Dependence / urine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotics / urine
  • Personality Disorders / complications
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / drug therapy
  • Personality Disorders / urine
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / urine
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine