Effects of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder on Functional Outcomes

A Systematic Review

Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 89 (June 2018), Pages 28-51. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2018.03.001

Posted on RAND.org on May 30, 2018

by Margaret A. Maglione, Laura Raaen, Christine Chen, Gulrez Shah Azhar, Nima Shahidinia, Mimi Shen, Ervant J. Maksabedian Hernandez, Roberta M. Shanman, Sydne Newberry, Susanne Hempel

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This systematic review synthesizes evidence on the effects of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) on functional outcomes, including cognitive (e.g., memory), physical (e.g., fatigue), occupational (e.g., return to work), social/behavioral (e.g., criminal activity), and neurological (e.g., balance) function. Five databases were searched from inception to July 2017 to identify English-language controlled trials, case control studies, and cohort comparisons of one or more groups; cross-sectional studies were excluded. Two independent reviewers screened identified literature, abstracted study-level information, and assessed the quality of included studies. Meta-analyses used the Hartung-Knapp method for random-effects models. The quality of evidence was assessed using the GRADE approach. A comprehensive search followed by 1411 full text publication screenings yielded 30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 10 observational studies meeting inclusion criteria. The studies reported highly diverse functional outcome measures. Only one RCT was rated as high quality, but several methodologically sound observational studies were identified. The statistical power to detect differences in functional outcomes was unclear in most studies. When compared with matched "healthy" controls with no history of substance use disorder (SUD), in two studies MAT patients had significantly poorer working memory and cognitive speed. One study found MAT patients scored worse in aggressive responding than did "healthy" controls. A large observational study found that MAT users had twice the odds of involvement in an injurious traffic accident as non-users. When compared with persons with OUD not on MAT, one cohort study found lower fatigue rates among buprenorphine-treated OUD patients. No differences were reported for occupational outcomes and results for criminal activity and other social/behavioral areas were mixed. There were few differences among MAT drug types. A pooled analysis of three RCTs found a significantly lower prevalence of fatigue with buprenorphine compared to methadone, while a meta-analysis of the same RCTs found no statistical difference in insomnia prevalence. Three RCTs that focused on cognitive function compared the effects of buprenorphine to methadone; no statistically significant differences in memory, cognitive speed and flexibility, attention, or vision were reported. The quality of evidence for most functional outcomes was rated low or very low. In sum, weaknesses in the body of evidence prevent strong conclusions about the effects of MAT for opioid use disorder on functional outcomes. Rigorous studies of functional effects would strengthen the body of literature.

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