Gut Motility and Transit Changes in Patients Receiving Long-Term Methadone Maintenance

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This study was conducted to survey gut motility and transit in 19 volunteers receiving methadone maintenance who were opioid-dependent, and to measure the oral-cecal transit time in these individuals using the lactulose hydrogen breath test. None of these patients reported constipation problems before use of illicit drugs. During current long-term methadone therapy, 58% of patients experienced some degree of constipation, and two of these 19 patients reported that constipation was a very serious problem. Mean ± standard deviation (SD) oral-cecal transit time in these individuals was 159 ± 49.2 minutes, which is significantly longer than the transit time recorded in two previous studies of healthy volunteers (P < 0.01). These results indicate that tolerance to opioids does not appear to extend to gastrointestinal motility and transit. It seems that patients receiving long-term methadone therapy are a good model for use in evaluating gastrointestinal effects of opioid antagonists.

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