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Effects of buprenorphine on opioid craving in comparison to other medications for opioid use disorder: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

Baxley C, Borsari B, Reavis JV, Manuel JK, Herbst E, Becker W, Pennington D, Batki SL, Seal K. Effects of buprenorphine on opioid craving in comparison to other medications for opioid use disorder: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Addictive Behaviors. 2023 Apr 1; 139:107589.

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BACKGROUND: Craving is a distressing symptom of opioid use disorder (OUD) that can be alleviated with medications for OUD (MOUD). Buprenorphine is an effective MOUD that may suppress craving; however, treatment discontinuation and resumed opioid use is common during the early phases of treatment. More information on the craving response through the high-risk period of initiating buprenorphine may provide meaningful information on how to better target craving, which in turn may enhance outcomes. This systematic review investigated buprenorphine doses and formulations on craving during the induction and maintenance phases of treatment, and for context also compared the craving response to other MOUD (i.e., methadone, extended-release naltrexone [XR-NTX]). METHODS: PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase, and Cochrane Central databases were searched for randomized trials of buprenorphine versus placebo, various buprenorphine formulations/doses, or other MOUD that included a measure of opioid craving. RESULTS: A total of 10 studies were selected for inclusion. Buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone (BUP/NAL) were each associated with lower craving than placebo over time. Craving was greater among those prescribed lower versus higher buprenorphine doses. In comparison to other MOUD, buprenorphine or BUP/NAL was linked to greater craving than methadone in 3 of the 6 studies. BUP/NAL was associated with greater reported craving than XR-NTX. DISCUSSION: Craving is reduced over time with buprenorphine and BUP/NAL, although other MOUD may provide greater reductions in craving. Although there is currently considerable variability in the measurement of craving, it may be a valuable concept to address with individuals receiving MOUD, especially early in treatment.

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