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Research Summary

Buprenorphine Treatment Is Not Associated with Significant Impairment of Driving Ability

Researchers in Germany assessed the impact of buprenorphine (BUP) treatment for opioid dependence on cognitive and psychomotor function using tests designed to predict driving ability. Test scores in the domains of attention, reaction time under pressure, visual orientation, motor coordination, and vigilance among 30 subjects receiving BUP for at least 6 months (and on stable doses for ≥12 days [mean, 7.7 mg per day; range, 1.2–16.0 mg per day]) were compared with those of 90 healthy volunteers. Subjects taking antihistamines or prescribed benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or high-dose antidepressants were excluded. Initial urine screening for illicit substances in the BUP group* found no other substances in 11 subjects, while 10 subjects were positive for cannabinoids, 6 for opioids, 3 for amphetamines, 4 for benzodiazepines, and 1 for cocaine. Results among controls were adjusted to obtain values equivalent to test performance under the influence of 0.05% alcohol.

  • Controls passed an average of 4.8 tests compared with 4.6 in the BUP group (not significant).
  • Eighty-one percent of controls passed all 5 tests compared with 63% in the BUP group (not significant).
  • In a separate evaluation of performance among the 11 BUP subjects with negative urine tests for illicit substances, results were not significantly different from those of the entire BUP group (n=30) or controls.
*Controls were not screened.


Cognitive and psychomotor function among subjects receiving BUP for opioid dependence was not significantly worse than that of healthy controls in this study—allowing that control-group results were adjusted to estimate the influence of moderate alcohol intake. Although these results provide reassurance about the driving performance of people receiving BUP, subjects received fairly modest doses in this study. The effect of higher doses on complex cognitive and psychomotor function is not known. The influence of other substances on driving ability always needs to be taken into consideration. Darius A. Rastegar, MD


Shmygalev S, Damm M, Weckbecker K, et al. The impact of long-term maintenance treatment with buprenorphine on complex psychomotor and cognitive function. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011;117(2–3):190–197.