Studies of substance abuse treatment outcomes that give priority to cessation of all drug use may obscure other tangible benefits of treatment that are important to patients. The aim of this study was to examine the association between changes in quality of life (QoL) and: (1) retention in treatment; and (2) opioid use as measured by self-report and urine testing. Participants were 300 African American men and women starting outpatient buprenorphine treatment. Participants completed assessments at baseline, three and six months consisting of the World Health Organization's Quality of Life brief scale, Addiction Severity Index, and urine testing for opioids. There were statistically significant increases over time across all four QoL domains: physical, psychological, environmental, and social. Self-reported frequency of opioid use was negatively associated with psychological QoL, but opioid urine test results were not significantly associated with any QoL domains. Continued treatment enrollment was significantly associated with higher psychological QoL and environmental QoL. Patients entering buprenorphine treatment experience improvements in QoL, which are amplified for patients who remain in treatment. Point-prevalence opiate urine test results obtained at each assessment were not associated with any of the QoL domains and may not accurately reflect improvements perceived by patients receiving buprenorphine treatment.
Keywords: buprenorphine; minority health; quality of life; treatment retention; urine testing.