Skip to content Skip to navigation

Hazelden presents award for research on long-term buprenorphine maintenance

March 26, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
| Reprints

Recently, Hazelden surprised many in the treatment world when it started to use buprenorphine for maintenance (as opposed to just for detoxification purposes) for some of its patients.

Now, Hazelden’s Butler Center for Research has awarded Roger D. Weiss, M.D., Chief of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts its latest “Dan Anderson Research Award” for his study examining the effectiveness of long-term buprenorphine maintenance accompanied by adjunctive counseling in the treatment of prescription opioid drug dependence.

This award honors a single published article by a researcher who has advanced the scientific knowledge of addiction treatment and recovery.

Weiss earned the award for his study, "Adjunctive Counseling During Brief and Extended Buprenorphine-Naloxone Treatment for Prescription Opioid Dependence,” published in 2011 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study looked at over 650 individuals who were dependent on prescription opioids and sought outpatient treatment. All study participants received buprenorphine-naloxone and were randomly assigned to either standard medical management or standard medical management accompanied by opioid dependence counseling. In Phase I of the study, all participants received a two-week buprenorphine stabilization followed by a two-week taper. Participants who had an unfavorable outcome in Phase I were given an additional 12 weeks of buprenorphine maintenance followed by a four-week taper. In both phases, the study assessed opioid drug use during the first eight weeks after discontinuation of buprenorphine via self-report assessments and urinary drug screens.

Results of Phase I: Less than 7% of participants had favorable opioid use outcomes.

Results of Phase II: 49% of Phase II participants had positive opioid use outcomes while they were taking buprenorphine.

However, success rates dropped substantially during the eight weeks following the end of the buprenorphine taper. The study also found that participants receiving standard medical management did not have better outcomes than patients receiving medical management and adjunctive opioid counseling, though Weiss and colleagues state that more frequent counseling over a longer period of time may have produced more positive results. They also stated that it is currently unclear whether longer term buprenorphine treatment before initiation of the taper would have produced better outcomes. Finally, the presence of chronic pain in some participants did not affect opioid use outcomes.  

Weiss said, “The present findings raise an important question: what length of buprenorphine-naloxone treatment, if any, would lead to substantially better outcomes after a taper?”

"Our Scientific Panel of Advisors was extremely impressed with the scientific rigor of this study, its two phase methodology, and the fact it examined extended buprenorphine maintenance,” stated Dr. Audrey Klein, director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Foundation. "His current work on the use of long-term buprenorphine is innovative, timely, and essential given the current epidemic of prescription opioid addiction and increase in deaths related to opioid overdose.”

Weiss will accept the award and a $2,000 honorarium from Hazelden later this year. The award is named for the late Dan Anderson, Ph.D., the former president of Hazelden and one of the major architects of the Minnesota Model, the interdisciplinary approach to addiction treatment that has been implemented worldwide.

Topics