Low efficacy of non-opioid drugs in opioid withdrawal symptoms
Hermann D, Klages E, Welzel H, Mann K, Croissant B.
Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine,
Central Institute of Mental Health,
University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany.
Addict Biol. 2005 Jun;10(2):165-9.symptoms.


Opioid withdrawal, stress or cues associated with opioid consumption can induce opioid craving. If opioids are not available, opioid-dependent patients usually search for alternative drugs. Because several non-opioid drugs stimulate the endogenous opioidergic system, this concept may explain their frequent use by opioid-dependent patients. We hypothesized that non-opioid drugs alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms and are therefore consumed by opioid addicts. We asked 89 opioid-dependent patients participating in an out-patient opioid maintenance program to estimate the potential of several non-opioid drugs in being able to alleviate opioid withdrawal. We applied a five-point Lickert scale (1 = very good reduction of opioid withdrawal; 5 = no reduction of opioid withdrawal). Patients could also indicate a worsening of opioid withdrawal. Values (mean +/- SD) were: for benzodiazepines, 3.2 +/- 1.1; tricyclic antidepressants, 3.6 +/- 1.1; cannabis, 3.6 +/- 1.0; alcohol, 4.1 +/- 1.1; cocaine, 4.2 +/- 1.1; amphetamine, 4.4 +/- 0.9; nicotine, 4.7 +/- 0.7; and caffeine, 4.9 +/- 0.5. A worsening of opioid withdrawal was reported by 62% of the patients for cocaine, 62% for amphetamine, 50% for caffeine, 37.5% for cannabis, 27% for nicotine, 26% for alcohol, 8% for tricyclic antidepressants and 3% for benzodiazepines. Our study shows a low efficacy of non-opioid drugs in alleviating opioid withdrawal symptoms. The data basis of this study was good and the sample was suitable to be asked for estimations of drug-drug interactions. Of the patients, 26 - 62% even reported a worsening of opioid withdrawal for cannabis, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamine. Only benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants were reported to have a moderate positive effect on opioid withdrawal.
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