There is growing evidence for a neuroadaptive model underlying vulnerability to relapse in opioid dependence. The purpose of this study was to evaluate clinical measures hypothesized to mirror elements of allostatic dysregulation in patients dependent on prescription opioids at 2 time points after withdrawal, compared with healthy control participants.Methods:
Recently withdrawn (n = 7) prescription opioid-dependent patients were compared with the patients in supervised residential care for 2 to 3 months (extended care; n = 7) and healthy controls (n = 7) using drug cue reactivity, affect-modulated startle response tasks, salivary cortisol, and 8 days of sleep actigraphy. Prefrontal cortex was monitored with functional near-infrared spectroscopy during the cue reactivity task.Results:
Startle response results indicated reduced hedonic response to natural rewards among patients recently withdrawn from opioids relative to extended care patients. The recently withdrawn patients showed increased activation to pill stimuli in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex relative to extended care patients. Cortisol levels were elevated among recently withdrawn patients and intermediate for extended care relative to healthy controls. Actigraphy indicated disturbed sleep between recently withdrawn patients and extended care patients; extended care patients were similar to controls. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation to drug and natural reward cues, startle responses to natural reward cues, day-time cortisol levels, time in bed, and total time spent sleeping were all correlated with the number of days since last drug use (ie, time in supervised residential treatment).Conclusions:
These results suggest possible re-regulation of dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and brain reward systems in prescription opioid-dependent patients over the drug-free period in residential treatment.