Objective: To examine changes in behavioral and emotional problems among opioid-dependent adolescents during a 4-week combined behavioral and pharmacological treatment.
Methods: We examined scales of behavioral and emotional problems in youth using the Youth Self-Report measure at the time of substance abuse treatment intake and changes in scale scores during treatment participants were 36 adolescents (aged 13–18 years, eligible) who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria for opioid dependence. Participants received a 28-day outpatient, medication-assisted withdrawal with either buprenorphine, or clonidine, as part of a double-blind, double dummy comparison of these medications. All participants received a common behavioral intervention, composed of 3 individual counseling sessions per week, and incentives contingent on opioid-negative urine samples (collected 3 times/week) attendance and completion of weekly assessments.
Results: Although a markedly greater number of youth who received buprenorphine remained in treatment relative to those who received clonidine, youth who remained in treatment showed significant reductions during treatment on 2 Youth Self-Report grouping scales (internalizing problems and total problems) and 4 of the empirically based syndrome scales (somatic, social, attention, and thought). On Youth Self-Report competence and adaptive scales, no significant changes were observed. There was no evidence that changes in any scales differed across medication condition.
Conclusions: Youth who were retained demonstrated substantive improvements in a number of clinically meaningful behavioral and emotional problems, irrespective of pharmacotherapy provided to them.