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Long-acting depot buprenorphine impact for opioid dependence

Hunter New England Local Health District

  • Translational Research Grants Scheme
Date Funded:
  • 8 February, 2021
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Adrian Dunlop

Project summary

The study will compare long-acting 34 depot buprenorphine to methadone to help understand what assists patients with remaining in treatment after release from custody.

The issue for NSW

Opioid dependence is common in prison populations world-wide. Transition to the community is a highly challenging period, with overdose deaths occurring at an alarming rate, over 40-fold immediately post-release. Return to custody is also common. Continuation of opioid agonist treatment (methadone or buprenorphine) after release reduces overdose risk and re-incarceration. Reducing Recidivism in the Prison Population is one of the NSW Premier’s Priorities.

While depot-BPN is being prescribed in NSW custodial settings, it is crucial to know if patients remain in treatment after release or drop-out. If effective, this evidence could help further transform NSW opioid treatment.

This research supports the reduction of preventable return to custody – distressing to individuals and families but also extremely costly. Reduction in re-offending offers great benefits to communities and reduces the burden on police and court systems.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The aim of this study is to improve knowledge regarding the care for patients with opioid dependence released from prison. Research questions include: What is the effect of depot-BPN compared to oral methadone for opioid dependent patients released from custody on:

  1. retention in drug treatment in the community including the barriers and facilitators of retention in drug treatment;
  2. substance use, overdose, mortality, other health outcomes, and return to custody, (secondary outcomes), and (iii) The costs-consequences of these interventions.

This prospective study will follow opioid dependent patients released from custody, both administratively and face-to-face, to determine the comparative effectiveness of treatment.

The project will compare outcomes with patients released on depot buprenorphine compared to methadone, measuring:

  1. Retention in treatment.
  2. Reduction in crime (remaining out of custody).
  3. Reduction in substance use.