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Background: Medications for opioid use disorder such as opioid agonist treatment (OAT, including methadone, buprenorphine) are the gold standard intervention for opioid use disorder (OUD). Persons with OUD have high rates of neurocognitive impairment and psychiatric and substance use disorders, but few studies have examined these characteristics in diverse patients initiating OAT in opioid treatment programs (OTPs). Additionally, in these individuals, poor neurocognitive functioning and psychiatric/other substance use disorders are associated with poor OUD treatment outcomes. Given rapid changes in the opioid epidemic, we sought to replicate findings from our pilot study by examining these characteristics in a large diverse sample of persons with OUD starting OTP-based OAT. Methods: Ninety-seven adults with OUD (M age = 42.2 years [SD = 10.3]; M education = 11.4 years [SD = 2.3]; 27% female; 22% non-Hispanic white) were enrolled in a randomized longitudinal trial evaluating methadone versus buprenorphine/naloxone on neurocognitive functioning. All participants completed a comprehensive neurocognitive, psychiatric, and substance use evaluation within one week of initiating OAT. Results: Most of the sample met criteria for learning (79%) or memory (69%) impairment. Half exhibited symptoms of current depression, and comorbid substance use was highly prevalent. Lifetime cannabis and cocaine use disorders were associated with better neurocognitive functioning, while depression was associated with worse neurocognitive functioning. Conclusions: Learning and memory impairment are highly prevalent in persons with OUD starting treatment with either methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone in OTPs. Depression and comorbid substance use are prevalent among these individuals, but neither impact learning or memory. However, depression is associated with neurocognitive impairment in other domains. These findings might allow clinicians to help persons with OUD starting OAT to develop compensatory strategies for learning and memory, while providing adjunctive treatment for depression. Trial Registration NCT, NCT01733693. Registered November 4, 2012, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01733693.
Scott, T. M., Arnsten, J., Olsen, J. P., Arias, F., Cunningham, C. O., & Rivera Mindt, M. (2021). Neurocognitive, psychiatric, and substance use characteristics in a diverse sample of persons with OUD who are starting methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone in opioid treatment programs. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-021-00272-4