An open randomized study lasting 12 months was performed to evaluate the efficacy of methadone or buprenorphine to suppress alcohol use in two hundred and eighteen heroin addicts with alcohol dependence. Daily maintenance doses of methadone were 80, 120, 160, and 200 mg/day, while doses of buprenorphine were 8, 16, 24, and 32 mg/day.
As expected, both treatments were able to reduce both heroin use and addiction severity (measured with ASI interview). However, although both medications were able to suppress alcohol use, the highest dose of buprenorphine was better than the highest dose of methadone, in reducing alcohol craving, ethanol intake (measured as daily number of drinks), and the ASI subscale of alcohol use.
The mechanism underlying the effects of the opioid maintenance therapy on the reduction of alcohol intake is still unclear.
The results of the present study may represent the first clinical evidence of the potential effective use of the highest doses of buprenorphine for the suppression of ethanol intake in heroin addicts with alcohol dependence.