Study suggests driving restrictions are not necessary for users of methadone, buprenorphine and LAAM

An Australian study in the December issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicates similar simulated driving results in controls and clients stabilized on pharmacotherapy for heroin dependence. Michael Lenne, Greg Rumbold, Jenny Redman, and Tom J Triggs from Monash University, Victoria, Australia and Paul Dietze from Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre Inc, Victoria, Australia and the School of Health Sciences, Deakin University, Victoria Australia studied effects of three drugs used to maintain opiate dependence. Some jurisdictions restrict driving while maintained on methadone and there is a possibility that these restrictions might be extended to buprenorphine and levo-alpha-acetyl-methodol (LAAM). Such a restriction may limit use of treatment modalities in clients who drive.

Thirty-four patients stabilized on methadone, LAAM, or buprenorphine for at least 3 months and 21 non-drug using volunteers participated in the study. Practice sessions were permitted on the simulator. Two experimental sessions (50-minute simulation) assessed speed, lateral position, steering wheel angle, and response to a secondary task. Before one of the sessions participants drank ethanol to obtain a targeted blood alcohol level (BAL) of 0.05%.

Simulated driving performance did not differ among the opiate treatment subjects or between opiate treatment subjects and controls. However, impairment was observed in all groups after alcohol consumption. Importantly, the effects of alcohol in producing diminished performance were equal in all groups. Results from this study question the need for the imposition of restricted driving standards on stabilized methadone, buprenorphine, and LAAM patients.


Contact: Dr Paul Dietze

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