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1.  Cognitive functioning in opioid-dependent patients treated with buprenorphine, methadone, and other psychoactive medications: stability and correlates 
In many but not in all neuropsychological studies buprenorphine-treated opioid-dependent patients have shown fewer cognitive deficits than patients treated with methadone. In order to examine if hypothesized cognitive advantage of buprenorphine in relation to methadone is seen in clinical patients we did a neuropsychological follow-up study in unselected sample of buprenorphine- vs. methadone-treated patients.
In part I of the study fourteen buprenorphine-treated and 12 methadone-treated patients were tested by cognitive tests within two months (T1), 6-9 months (T2), and 12 - 17 months (T3) from the start of opioid substitution treatment. Fourteen healthy controls were examined at similar intervals. Benzodiazepine and other psychoactive comedications were common among the patients. Test results were analyzed with repeated measures analysis of variance and planned contrasts. In part II of the study the patient sample was extended to include 36 patients at T2 and T3. Correlations between cognitive functioning and medication, substance abuse, or demographic variables were then analyzed.
In part I methadone patients were inferior to healthy controls tests in all tests measuring attention, working memory, or verbal memory. Buprenorphine patients were inferior to healthy controls in the first working memory task, the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task and verbal memory. In the second working memory task, the Letter-Number Sequencing, their performance improved between T2 and T3. In part II only group membership (buprenorphine vs. methadone) correlated significantly with attention performance and improvement in the Letter-Number Sequencing. High frequency of substance abuse in the past month was associated with poor performance in the Letter-Number Sequencing.
The results underline the differences between non-randomized and randomized studies comparing cognitive performance in opioid substitution treated patients (fewer deficits in buprenorphine patients vs. no difference between buprenorphine and methadone patients, respectively). Possible reasons for this are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3176473  PMID: 21854644
2.  Methadone vs. buprenorphine/naloxone during early opioid substitution treatment: a naturalistic comparison of cognitive performance relative to healthy controls 
Both methadone- and buprenorphine-treated opioid-dependent patients frequently show cognitive deficits in attention, working memory, and verbal memory. However, no study has compared these patient groups with each other during early opioid substitution treatment (OST). Therefore, we investigated attention, working memory, and verbal memory of opioid-dependent patients within six weeks after the introduction of OST in a naturalistic setting and compared to those of healthy controls.
The sample included 16 methadone-, 17 buprenorphine/naloxone-treated patients, and 17 healthy controls matched for sex and age. In both groups buprenorphine was the main opioid of abuse during the recent month. Benzodiazepine codependence, recent use, and comedication were also common in both patient groups. Analysis of variance was used to study the overall group effect in each cognitive test. Pair-wise group comparisons were made, when appropriate
Methadone-treated patients, as a group, had significantly slower simple reaction time (RT) compared to buprenorphine/naloxone-treated patients. In Go/NoGo RT methadone patients were significantly slower than controls. Both patient groups were significantly debilitated compared to controls in working memory and verbal list learning. Only methadone patients were inferior to controls in story recall. In simple RT and delayed story recall buprenorphine/naloxone patients with current benzodiazepine medication (n = 13) were superior to methadone patients with current benzodiazepine medication (n = 13). When methadone patients were divided into two groups according to their mean dose, the patient group with a low dose (mean 40 mg, n = 8) showed significantly faster simple RT than the high dose group (mean 67 mg, n = 8).
Deficits in attention may only be present in methadone-treated early phase OST patients and may be dose-dependent. Working memory deficit is common in both patient groups. Verbal memory deficit may be more pronounced in methadone-treated patients than in buprenorphine/naloxone-treated patients. In sum, to preserve cognitive function in early OST, the use of buprenorphine/naloxone may be more preferable to methadone use of, at least if buprenorphine has been recently abused and when benzodiazepine comedication is used. Longitudinal studies are needed to investigate if the better performance of buprenorphine/naloxone-treated patients is a relatively permanent effect or reflects "only" transient opioid switching effect.
PMCID: PMC1914339  PMID: 17565668

Results 1-2 (2)