Associations Among Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Function, Novelty Seeking, and Retention in Methadone Maintenance Therapy for Heroin Dependency

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The efficacy of methadone maintenance therapy for heroin dependence is compromised by the low retention rate. Hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function, which is associated with stress response, and novelty seeking (NS), a personality trait associated with low dopaminergic activity, may play roles in retention.


We conducted a prospective study in which HPA axis function and NS were assessed by the dexamethasone suppression test and the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire at baseline, respectively. The retention rate was assessed at the half- and 1-year points of methadone maintenance therapy.


A low suppression rate of dexamethasone suppression test (D%) was associated with a high level of NS. A low D% was associated with half-year dropout, whereas a high level of NS was associated with 1-year dropout. Survival analysis confirmed that D% and NS were significant time-dependent covariates for retention.


The findings showed that HPA axis function and NA were associated with retention at different time points.

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