Management of mood and anxiety disorders in patients receiving opioid agonist therapy: Review and meta-analysis

Am J Addict. 2017 Sep;26(6):551-563. doi: 10.1111/ajad.12581. Epub 2017 Jul 4.


Background and objectives: Patients with opioid use disorders and mood and anxiety symptoms have a variable prognosis. Few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have evaluated treatment of depression or anxiety in patients receiving opioid agonist therapies (OAT). This review evaluates studies of pharmacotherapy/psychotherapy for treating symptoms of depression or anxiety in patients receiving OAT.

Methods: Public databases were searched for clinical trials of pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy for managing depression or anxiety symptoms in adults receiving OAT. Subsequently, we conducted a random effects meta-analysis model of RCTs by antidepressants subclasses.

Results: In our literature search, we identified 22 RCTs, eight of which were eligible for meta-analysis. Seven studies evaluated antidepressants in patients already maintained on OAT; two studies reported significant results for antidepressant effects versus placebo. Similarly, two of the seven studies that initiated antidepressants with OAT had advantages over placebo. Meta-analysis of grouped data revealed that tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (n = 235) significantly improved mean depression scores (SMD = -2.35, 95%CI: [-4.35, -0.34], z = -2.29, p = .022) while Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) (n = 311) were not significantly different than placebo (SMD = 0.47, 95%CI: [-0.35, 1.30], z = 1.12, p = .263). Four out of five studies that implemented psychotherapeutic approaches reported a greater reduction of depressive symptoms than the comparison group.

Conclusions and scientific significance: To date, psychotherapy has the most documented evidence for efficacy. TCAs appears effective but with more adverse effects than SSRIs. Further studies of OAT and adjunct antidepressant treatments for dual diagnosis patients are warranted. (Am J Addict 2017;26:551-563).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety* / diagnosis
  • Anxiety* / etiology
  • Anxiety* / therapy
  • Depression* / diagnosis
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / psychology
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs* / classification
  • Psychotropic Drugs* / pharmacology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Psychotropic Drugs