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Buprenorphine for managing opioid withdrawal

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, February 2017
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (94th percentile)
  • Good Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (78th percentile)

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4 blogs
3 policy sources
18 X users
1 Facebook page
5 Wikipedia pages


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Buprenorphine for managing opioid withdrawal
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, February 2017
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd002025.pub5
Pubmed ID

Linda Gowing, Robert Ali, Jason M White, Dalitso Mbewe


Managed withdrawal is a necessary step prior to drug-free treatment or as the endpoint of substitution treatment. To assess the effects of buprenorphine versus tapered doses of methadone, alpha2-adrenergic agonists, symptomatic medications or placebo, or different buprenorphine regimens for managing opioid withdrawal, in terms of the intensity of the withdrawal syndrome experienced, duration and completion of treatment, and adverse effects. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, Issue 11, 2016), MEDLINE (1946 to December week 1, 2016), Embase (to 22 December 2016), PsycINFO (1806 to December week 3, 2016), and the Web of Science (to 22 December 2016) and handsearched the reference lists of articles. Randomised controlled trials of interventions using buprenorphine to modify the signs and symptoms of withdrawal in participants who were primarily opioid dependent. Comparison interventions involved reducing doses of methadone, alpha2-adrenergic agonists (clonidine or lofexidine), symptomatic medications or placebo, and different buprenorphine-based regimens. We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We included 27 studies involving 3048 participants. The main comparators were clonidine or lofexidine (14 studies). Six studies compared buprenorphine versus methadone, and seven compared different rates of buprenorphine dose reduction. We assessed 12 studies as being at high risk of bias in at least one of seven domains of methodological quality. Six of these studies compared buprenorphine with clonidine or lofexidine and two with methadone; the other four studies compared different rates of buprenorphine dose reduction.For the comparison of buprenorphine and methadone in tapered doses, meta-analysis was not possible for the outcomes of intensity of withdrawal or adverse effects. However, information reported by the individual studies was suggestive of buprenorphine and methadone having similar capacity to ameliorate opioid withdrawal, without clinically significant adverse effects. The meta-analyses that were possible support a conclusion of no difference between buprenorphine and methadone in terms of average treatment duration (mean difference (MD) 1.30 days, 95% confidence interval (CI) -8.11 to 10.72; N = 82; studies = 2; low quality) or treatment completion rates (risk ratio (RR) 1.04, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.20; N = 457; studies = 5; moderate quality).Relative to clonidine or lofexidine, buprenorphine was associated with a lower average withdrawal score (indicating less severe withdrawal) during the treatment episode, with an effect size that is considered to be small to moderate (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.43, 95% CI -0.58 to -0.28; N = 902; studies = 7; moderate quality). Patients receiving buprenorphine stayed in treatment for longer, with an effect size that is considered to be large (SMD 0.92, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.27; N = 558; studies = 5; moderate quality) and were more likely to complete withdrawal treatment (RR 1.59, 95% CI 1.23 to 2.06; N = 1264; studies = 12; moderate quality). At the same time there was no significant difference in the incidence of adverse effects, but dropout due to adverse effects may be more likely with clonidine (RR 0.20, 95% CI 0.04 to 1.15; N = 134; studies = 3; low quality). The difference in treatment completion rates translates to a number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome of 4 (95% CI 3 to 6), indicating that for every four people treated with buprenorphine, we can expect that one additional person will complete treatment than with clonidine or lofexidine.For studies comparing different rates of reduction of the buprenorphine dose, meta-analysis was possible only for treatment completion, with separate analyses for inpatient and outpatient settings. The results were diverse, and we assessed the quality of evidence as being very low. It remains very uncertain what effect the rate of dose taper has on treatment outcome. Buprenorphine is more effective than clonidine or lofexidine for managing opioid withdrawal in terms of severity of withdrawal, duration of withdrawal treatment, and the likelihood of treatment completion.Buprenorphine and methadone appear to be equally effective, but data are limited. It remains possible that the pattern of withdrawal experienced may differ and that withdrawal symptoms may resolve more quickly with buprenorphine.It is not possible to draw any conclusions from the available evidence on the relative effectiveness of different rates of tapering the buprenorphine dose. The divergent findings of studies included in this review suggest that there may be multiple factors affecting the response to the rate of dose taper. One such factor could be whether or not the initial treatment plan includes a transition to subsequent relapse prevention treatment with naltrexone. Indeed, the use of buprenorphine to support transition to naltrexone treatment is an aspect worthy of further research.Most participants in the studies included in this review were male. None of the studies reported outcomes on the basis of sex, preventing any exploration of differences related to this variable. Consideration of sex as a factor influencing response to withdrawal treatment would be relevant research for selecting the most appropriate type of intervention for each individual.

X Demographics

X Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 18 X users who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.
Mendeley readers

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 370 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Russia 1 <1%
Unknown 369 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 52 14%
Student > Bachelor 43 12%
Student > Ph. D. Student 33 9%
Other 29 8%
Researcher 26 7%
Other 82 22%
Unknown 105 28%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 116 31%
Nursing and Health Professions 33 9%
Psychology 24 6%
Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science 21 6%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 12 3%
Other 52 14%
Unknown 112 30%
Attention Score in Context

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 48. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 28 October 2021.
All research outputs
of 25,461,852 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 12,090 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 324,151 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 240 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 25,461,852 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 96th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 12,090 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 38.2. This one has done well, scoring higher than 86% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 324,151 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 94% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 240 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done well, scoring higher than 78% of its contemporaries.