Background: In the multi-site Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study (POATS), conducted within the National Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network, participants randomly assigned to receive individual drug counseling in addition to buprenorphine-naloxone and medical management did not have superior opioid use outcomes. However, research with other substance-dependent populations shows that subgroups of participants may benefit from a treatment although the entire population does not.
Method: We conducted a secondary analysis of POATS data to determine whether a subgroup of participants benefited from drug counseling in addition to buprenorphine-naloxone and medical management, either due to greater problem severity or more exposure to counseling as a result of greater treatment adherence. Problem severity was measured by a history of heroin use, higher Addiction Severity Index drug composite score, and chronic pain. Adequate treatment adherence was defined a priori as attending at least 60% of all offered sessions.
Results: Patients who had ever used heroin and received drug counseling were more likely to be successful (i.e., abstinent or nearly abstinent from opioids) than heroin users who received medical management alone, but only if they were adherent to treatment and thus received adequate exposure to counseling (OR=3.7, 95% CI=1.1-11.8, p=0.03). The association between severity and outcome did not vary by treatment condition for chronic pain or ASI drug severity score.
Conclusions: These findings emphasize the importance of treatment adherence, and suggest that patients with prescription opioid dependence are a heterogeneous group, with different optimal treatment strategies for different subgroups.
Keywords: Counseling; Prescription opioids; Treatment.
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