Slow tapering from methadone maintenance in a program encouraging indefinite maintenance
by
Calsyn DA, Malcy JA, Saxon AJ.
Department of Veterans Affairs, Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA 98108, USA;
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98108, USA;
University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.
J Subst Abuse Treat. 2006 Mar;30(2):159-163.


ABSTRACT

Longitudinal studies have indicated that most opioid agonist-using patients are not able to successfully complete tapering attempts. Little is known, however, about tapering within a treatment environment that is supportive of indefinite agonist treatment and medication tapering. In this study, all records of patients beginning a slow methadone taper were reviewed (N = 30). No patient successfully completed methadone tapering. Four patients (13.3%) successfully switched to buprenorphine/naloxone, one of whom tapered off buprenorphine/naloxone. Three patients (10%) were continuing their taper at the study's end. One patient transferred to another program, one was administratively discharged, and one had his taper stopped for mishandling doses. The remaining patients (n = 20, 66.7%) stopped their tapers for the following reasons: feeling unstable/withdrawal symptoms (n = 4, 13.3%), drug use/positive urinalysis results (n = 12, 40%), psychiatric instability (n = 3, 10%), and pain management (n = 1, 3.3%). Only one patient prematurely left treatment secondary to a failed taper attempt. Patients attempting tapers should be informed about the difficulty involved and be monitored closely for signs of instability. For a few patients, a taper to a lower methadone dose and a switch to buprenorphine/naloxone are obtainable. Program policies that support both tapering attempts and indefinite maintenance are described in this article.
Methadone
Methadone maintenance
Rapid opioid detoxification
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Methadone: "killer drug" etc
Buprenorphine v methadone
Methadone, LAAM and the rush
Methadone for tramadol addicts?
Methadone/morphine as antidepressants