Clonidine Increases the Likelihood That Abstinence Can Withstand Unstructured Time in Buprenorphine-maintained Outpatients

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Abstract

Objective:

In a clinical trial examining daily clonidine as an adjunct to buprenorphine treatment for opioid dependence, we found that clonidine increased opioid abstinence and decoupled stress from craving. From a personalized-medicine perspective, the next step is to identify people for whom clonidine would be beneficial. To that end, using data from the same clinical trial, we examined the associations of daily-life activities with treatment success.

Methods:

Outpatients (N = 118) received clonidine (0.3 mg/d) or placebo during 18 weeks of buprenorphine treatment. Participants carried a smartphone that randomly prompted them 4 times per day to report their moods and activities. Using generalized linear mixed models, we assessed the likelihoods of different types of daily activity as a function of clonidine versus placebo, days of longest continuous opioid abstinence, and their interaction.

Results:

Participants in the buprenorphine-only (buprenorphine plus placebo) control group who engaged in more responsibilities (work and child/elder care) had longer streaks of abstinence, whereas those who engaged in more unstructured-time activities had shorter streaks of abstinence. Conversely, for participants in the buprenorphine-plus-clonidine group, longer streaks of abstinence were associated with higher frequencies of activities associated with “unstructured” time.

Conclusions:

The study replicates findings that engaging in responsibilities is related to positive treatment outcomes in standard opioid agonist therapy. The pattern of results also suggests that clonidine helped participants engage in unstructured-time activities with less risk of craving or use than they might otherwise have had.

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