A comparison of methadone, buprenorphine and alpha(2) adrenergic agonists for opioid detoxification: a mixed treatment comparison meta-analysis

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Apr 1;108(1-2):110-4. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.12.008. Epub 2010 Jan 13.


Objectives: The aim of this systematic review was to compare the efficacy of methadone, buprenorphine, clonidine and lofexidine for opioid detoxification. Mixed treatment comparison meta-analyses were used to synthesise the data as it is designed for data-sets where limitations in standard pairwise meta-analyses make comparisons difficult to interpret.

Data sources: A systematic search was conducted using the following databases: CENTRAL, CINAHL, Embase, HMIC, Medline and PsycINFO.

Review methods: RCTs that included opioid dependent participants over a mean age of 16 receiving opioid detoxification using buprenorphine, methadone, clonidine or lofexidine were included in the systematic review. Included studies were quality assessed and the completion of treatment data was extracted by the author and a research assistant independently. Mixed treatment comparison methods were used to synthesise the data.

Results: There were 23 RCTs included in the systematic review (and 20 included in the meta-analysis) comprising a total of 2112 participants. Buprenorphine and methadone were ranked as the most effective methods of opioid detoxification followed by lofexidine and clonidine respectively.

Conclusion: Buprenorpine and methadone appear to be the most effective detoxification treatments. While the analysis suggests buprenorphine is the most effective method of detoxification there is some uncertainty on whether it is more effective than methadone and requires further research to confirm this result.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists*
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Clonidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Methadone
  • lofexidine