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Volume 5, Pages 452-468
Research Article

Sublingual Buprenorphine and Methadone Maintenance Treatment: A Three-Year Follow-Up of Quality of Life Assessment

University Department of Psychiatry, Anichstraße 35, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

Received 7 April 2005; Revised 25 April 2005; Accepted 25 April 2005

Copyright © 2005 Salvatore M. Giacomuzzi et al.


This study was conducted to compare long-term outcome effects on the quality of life (QOL) of oral methadone with sublingual buprenorphine maintenance treatment. The QOL status of opioid-dependent patients was assessed using the German version (“Berlin Quality of Life Profile”) of the Lancashire Quality of Life Profile. Physical symptoms were measured using the Opiate Withdrawal Scale (OWS). Urine tests were carried out randomly to detect additional consumption. In the first study period, 53 opioid-dependent subjects were enrolled and 25 could be reached after 3 years. The retention rate was 50% for methadone and 45% for buprenorphine (p = 0.786). Baseline values of the total sample (completers and noncompleters) QOL and somatic complaints did not show significant differences between the two treatment groups. QOL characteristics at 6 months of treatment of the buprenorphine completer and noncompleter groups differed significantly regarding job (p = 0.013), family, and total score of physical symptoms (p = 0.002), in which the completer group showed the more favorable values. Concerning physical symptoms at 36 months, logistic regression revealed significantly less stomach cramps (p = 0.037) and fatigue and tiredness (p = 0.034) in buprenorphine compared to the methadone. Moreover, the buprenorphine-maintained group showed significantly less additional consumption of benzodiazepines (p = 0.015) compared with methadone participants. It is concluded that opioid addicts improved their QOL and health status when treated with methadone or buprenorphine. In summary, regarding QOL and health status, the present data indicate that buprenorphine is also a useful long-term alternative for maintenance treatment of opioid-dependent patients.