A double blind, within subject comparison of spontaneous opioid withdrawal from buprenorphine versus morphines

D. Andrew Tompkins, Michael T. Smith, Miriam Mintzer, Claudia M. Campbell, Eric C. Strain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preliminary evidence suggests that there is minimal withdrawal after the cessation of chronically administered buprenorphine and that opioid withdrawal symptoms are delayed compared with those of other opioids. The present study compared the time course and magnitude of buprenorphine withdrawal with a prototypical m-opioid agonist, morphine. Healthy, out-of-treatment opioid-dependent residential volunteers (N 5 7) were stabilized on either buprenorphine (32 mg/day i.m.) or morphine (120 mg/ day i.m.) administered in four divided doses for 9 days. They then underwent an 18-day period of spontaneous withdrawal, during which four double-blind i.m. placebo injections were administered daily. Stabilization and spontaneous withdrawal were assessed for the second opioid using the same time course. Opioid withdrawal measures were collected eight times daily. Morphine withdrawal symptoms were significantly (P , 0.05) greater than those of buprenorphine withdrawal as measured by mean peak ratings of Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS), Subjective Opiate Withdrawal Scale (SOWS), all subscales of the Profile of Mood States (POMS), sick and pain (0-100) Visual Analog Scales, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and pupil dilation. Peak ratings on COWS and SOWS occurred on day 2 of morphine withdrawal and were significantly greater than on day 2 of buprenorphine withdrawal. Subjective reports of morphine withdrawal resolved on average by day 7. There was minimal evidence of buprenorphine withdrawal on any measure. In conclusion, spontaneous withdrawal from high-dose buprenorphine appears subjectively and objectively milder compared with that of morphine for at least 18 days after drug cessation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'A double blind, within subject comparison of spontaneous opioid withdrawal from buprenorphine versus morphines'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this