Craving, an urge or increased desire to take a drug, is part of a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that can develop after substance use. Self-reported cravings for heroin and cocaine are compared in opioid dependent patients while receiving maintenance treatment with slow-release oral morphine (SROM) or methadone.
Data from a 22-week open-label, randomized, crossover trial (per protocol sample n = 157) were examined by analysis of variance (ANOVA). Cravings for heroin and cocaine during the past 7 days were assessed at baseline and thrice during each 11-week treatment period using a Visual Analog Scale (heroin, VAS-H; cocaine, VAS-C), German versions of the brief Heroin Craving Questionnaire (HCQ), and the brief Cocaine Craving Questionnaire (CCQ).
Mean (SD) heroin craving scores under methadone were 3.3 (2.4) (VAS-H) and 2.9 (1.4) (HCQ). Heroin craving scores under SROM were significantly lower, at 2.5 (2.2) (VAS-H) and 2.6 (1.2) (HCQ) (ANOVA: VAS-H P < 0.0001, HCQ P = 0.010). Cocaine craving scores were not significantly different (methadone: 1.6 (2.0) (VAS-C) and 2.1 (1.2) (CCQ) vs SROM: 1.4 (1.9) (VAS-C) and 2.1 (1.2) (CCQ); ANOVA: VAS-C P = 0.175, CCQ P = 0.536). No significant carry-over effects were detected.
This study demonstrates that SROM is clinically more effective than methadone in reducing general craving for heroin during opioid maintenance treatment while not affecting cocaine craving.