Objectives: To develop evidence-based practice guidelines for the pharmacological treatment of opioid abuse and dependence.
Methods: An international task force of the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) developed these practice guidelines after a systematic review of the available evidence pertaining to the treatment of opioid dependence. On the basis of the evidence, the Task Force reached a consensus on practice recommendations, which are intended to be clinically and scientifically meaningful for physicians who treat adults with opioid dependence. The data used to develop these guidelines were extracted primarily from national treatment guidelines for opioid use disorders, as well as from meta-analyses, reviews, and publications of randomized clinical trials on the efficacy of pharmacological and other biological treatments for these disorders. Publications were identified by searching the MEDLINE database and the Cochrane Library. The literature was evaluated with respect to the strength of evidence for efficacy, which was categorized into one of six levels (A-F).
Results: There is an excellent evidence base supporting the efficacy of methadone and buprenorphine or the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone for the treatment of opioid withdrawal, with clonidine and lofexidine as secondary or adjunctive medications. Opioid maintenance with methadone and buprenorphine is the best-studied and most effective treatment for opioid dependence, with heroin and naltrexone as second-line medications.
Conclusions: There is enough high quality data to formulate evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of opioid abuse and dependence. This task force report provides evidence for the efficacy of a number of medications to treat opioid abuse and dependence, particularly the opioid agonists methadone or buprenorphine. These medications have great relevance for clinical practice.