Methadone-Nicotine Interactions in Methadone Maintenance Treatment Patients

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Smoking is highly prevalent (85%-98%) in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) patients. Methadone has been shown to increase cigarette smoking in a dose-dependent manner, whereas smoking/nicotine has been shown to increase methadone self-administration and reinforcing properties. The objective of this study was to evaluate methadone-nicotine interactions in MMT patients during trough and peak methadone effect conditions. Subjective effects of nicotine (administered by cigarette smoking, 4 mg of nicotine gum and placebo gum) and methadone and their combination were assessed in 40 regularly smoking, stabilized MMT patients using a randomized, placebo-controlled, within-subject study design. Subjects responded to a battery of subjective assessments before and after nicotine administration both before methadone administration (cycles 1 and 2) and 3 hours after methadone administration (cycles 3 and 4). There was a main effect of methadone on the decrease of opioid withdrawal scores (P < 0.001), and cigarette smoking enhanced this effect (day × methadone interaction, P = 0.031). Both nicotine and methadone had main effects on the decrease of nicotine withdrawal scores (P < 0.001 and P = 0.001, respectively); this was associated with the cigarette day (day × nicotine interaction, P = 0.003, and day × methadone interaction, P = 0.004). Nicotine plasma levels were highest on the cigarette smoking day (P < 0.001). Methadone and nicotine shared main effects on the increase of ratings of euphoria and drug liking and on the decrease of restlessness, irritability, and depression. The overall results may help to explain high smoking rates in the MMT population and may account for reports of increased positive effects of methadone when the drugs are taken together.

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