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Interview with Dr Zainab Samaan

Posted Sun, Sep, 11,2016

This author interview is by Dr Zainab Samaan, of McMaster University. Dr Samaan's full paper, A Prospective Study to Investigate Predictors of Relapse among Patients with Opioid Use Disorder Treated with Methadone, is available for download in Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment.

Please summarize for readers the content of your article.

This is a study of factors associated with opioid addiction relapse, it included 250 patients with opioid use disorder (opioid addiction) receiving methadone maintenance treatment who were interviewed to collect data related to drug use, health and sociodemographic data then followed up for 6 months to see who relapsed (used opioids while on treatment with methadone as detected by urine tests). We found that patients with injecting drug history were twice as likely to relapse, those who also used benzodiazepines drugs were at 7% increased risk of relapse for every day of benzodiazepine used and there was a 10% increase per year of age of onset of opioid use (heroin, Oxycontin, codeine, fentanyl and other prescription opioids).

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?

Being a psychiatrist, I see patients with many mental disorders including substance use who are not faring well in treatment programs and usually have a chronic nature of illness and frequent hospitalizations, resulted in my interest in conducting research to understand more about drug use and find better ways to treat patients.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
Many previous studies were conducted on populations who are usually younger, men, using heroin and used retrospective data to investigate the risk of relapse. The demographics of opioid use disorder patients have changed in the last decade leading to the need of new examination of the risk factors to identify those at risk and reduce relapse. For example we now have men and women equally affected by opioid use disorder, many are using prescription drugs and less heroin and therefore the current findings are more relevant to the current practice of addiction medicine.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
As mentioned above, because of the changes in demographics of opioid use disorders (currently as many women as men, middle age, mostly prescription drug use) the current study helps in identifying the current patient at risk of relapse and assist in treatment revision and tailoring to individual's needs. The study's findings also call for vigilance in assessing patients co substance use including benzodiazepines.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
Patients with injecting behaviour and patients using benzodiazepines are at high risk of relapse while on methadone treatment for opioid addiction. Identifying patients with this profile will lead to early detection and minimization of risk of relapse.

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