Am J Ther. 2022 Feb 14;29(2):e193-e198. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000001478.
BACKGROUND: Opioid use disorder continues to have a significant impact on public health morbidity and mortality throughout the United States and elsewhere. Managing opioid withdrawal is a critical treatment goal in individuals entering treatment with an active opioid use.
STUDY QUESTION: What are the milestones of the changes in the expert approach to the pharmacological management of heroin withdrawal syndrome in the past century?
STUDY DESIGN: To determine the changes in the expert approach to the management of heroin withdrawal syndrome, as presented in a widely used textbook in the United States.
DATA SOURCES: The chapters on opioid dependence in the 26 editions of Cecil Textbook of Medicine published from 1927 through 2020.
RESULTS: Opioid replacement taper with morphine (1927-1947), codeine (1931-1943), and methadone (1951-present) administered for 3-10 days has remained the main intervention. The anticholinergic drugs, scopolamine and atropine, were recommended from 1927 to 1943, but their use has never been backed by scientific evidence. Newer approaches relied on clonidine, an alpha-2 receptor agonist used since 1982, and buprenorphine, an opioid agonist/antagonist endorsed for the treatment of heroin withdrawal in 2000.
CONCLUSIONS: The pharmacological management of heroin withdrawal syndrome in the past century has progressed from the introduction of methadone to the utilization of clonidine and buprenorphine. More recent advances in treating opioid use disorder have changed the goals of opioid withdrawal management to achievement of abstinence from all opioids to facilitation of long-term treatment with medications for opioid use disorder.