This commentary reviews the limitations of the recent literature review by that examined the role of psychosocial interventions with medication for opioid addiction treatment.
The commonly held belief that opioid agonist treatment alone is inferior treatment to such treatment combined with ‘psychosocial’ treatment (which many will understand to mean counseling) is not supported by the research evidence and it results in limitations on the use of these effective medications.
Below is the review addressed by this commentary:
Opioid use and overdose rates have risen to epidemic levels in the United States during the past decade. Fortunately, there are effective medications (ie, methadone, buprenorphine, and oral and injectable naltrexone) available for the treatment of opioid addiction.
Each of these medications is approved for use in conjunction with psychosocial treatment; however, there is a dearth of empirical research on the optimal psychosocial interventions to use with these medications.
In this systematic review, we outline and discuss the findings of 3 prominent prior reviews and 27 recent publications of empirical studies on this topic.
The most widely studied psychosocial interventions examined in conjunction with medications for opioid addiction were contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy, with the majority focusing on methadone treatment.
The results generally support the efficacy of providing psychosocial interventions in combination with medications to treat opioid addictions, although the incremental utility varied across studies, outcomes, medications, and interventions.
The emphasized phrase is what the commentary above was focusing on to make sure it wasn’t misinterpreted – as the researchers evidently had hoped for with their wording.
Given the enormity of the current opioid problem in the United States, it is critical to gain a better understanding of the most effective ways to deliver psychosocial treatments in conjunction with these medications to improve the health and well-being of individuals suffering from opioid addiction.
The commentary clarifies and debunks the assumption that “psychosocial therapy” in necessary even with medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.