Research needed on effects of opioid use disorder pharmacotherapies on life functioning

Oct 8, 2018 | General

In the US, federally approved pharmacotherapies include methadone, buprenorphine (e.g., suboxone), and naltrexone. While evidence supports their ability to help individuals recover from opioid use disorder (i.e. reduce opioid use), a common concern is whether medications improve other areas of function too.

While important in their own right, improvements in these non-substance use domains of psychosocial functioning and resources, often called recovery capital, may help sustain recovery over the long-term. Thus, there is a need to better understand how these lifesaving treatments affect everyday functions like social relationships and cognitive skills, that might play an important role in longterm recovery. This review evaluates the research conducted to-date that examines the effects of opioid use disorder pharmacotherapies on functioning in various aspects of one’s life, including physical, social, occupational (i.e. work-related functioning), and neurocognitive outcomes.

It suggests a need for high quality controlled investigations that further explore the cognitive deficits seen in patients, assess the potential benefits of pharmacotherapy on criminal activity and legal problems, and address occupational function in more detail.   There is a huge gap in the scientific literature that demands immediate attention. With so few investigations of functional outcomes in pharmacotherapy patients, addressing this area of study offers tremendous benefit not only to the scientific community, but also to opioid use disorder patients, clinicians, and society at large.

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