Objective: A preliminary study examined whether lofexidine decreases stress-induced and cue-induced opioid craving and improves opioid abstinence in naltrexone-treated opioid-dependent individuals.
Materials and methods: Eighteen opioid-dependent patients were stabilized for 4 weeks with naltrexone (50 mg daily) and lofexidine (2.4 mg bid) before entering a 4-week randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled discontinuation study where one group continued on lofexidine for an additional 4 weeks, while the second was tapered to placebo (Lofexidine-naltrexone vs Placebo-naltrexone). Ten patients also participated in guided imagery exposure to stress, drug cue, and neutral scenarios in a single laboratory session.
Results: Lofexidine-naltrexone patients had higher opioid abstinence rates and improved relapse outcomes as compared to the Placebo-naltrexone group. Furthermore, Lofexidine-naltrexone patients had significantly lower heart rates and an attenuated stress and drug cue-induced opioid craving response in the laboratory as compared to the Placebo-naltrexone group.
Conclusions: Although preliminary, these findings are the first to document lofexidine's potential in addressing stress-related opioid craving and relapse outcomes in humans. The results also suggest that combination therapies that target both drug-related reinforcement (naltrexone) and stress- and cue-related aspects of drug seeking could be beneficial in addiction relapse prevention. Further development of lofexidine to address stress-related opioid craving and relapse is warranted.