Certain factors can help health care professionals predict who might relapse during treatment for prescription opioid painkiller addiction, Canadian researchers report.
Opioid abuse is a serious problem in Canada and the United States, the researchers said. Methadone treatment is the most common therapy. But, nearly half of patients continue to abuse opioids during or after methadone treatment, researchers noted.
Opioid painkillers include such drugs as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin.
“We can improve our tailoring of treatment to each patient if we know who among patients taking methadone treatment is at high risk for opioid relapse,” said principal author Dr. Zena Samaan. Samaan is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“As well, health care providers can target more aggressive therapies to those at high risk,” she added in a university news release.
This study included 250 adults from Ontario who had been on a methadone treatment for an average of four years. The researchers found that relapse was more common among certain groups of patients.
Injection drug users were more than twice as likely to relapse as those who didn’t inject drugs. There was a 10 percent higher risk of relapse for every year later in life that a person first began abusing opioids, the study revealed.
Researchers also found a 7 percent higher risk of relapse for each day people used tranquilizers in the previous month.
However, at least one factor was protective, the study said. Researchers found that the older the patient, the less likely they were to relapse.
Findings from the study were published recently in the journal Substance Abuse Research and Treatment.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about opioids.