Cognitive control in opioid dependence and methadone maintenance treatment

Ding Lieh Liao, Cheng Yi Huang, Sien Hu, Su Chen Fang, Chi Shin Wu, Wei Ti Chen, Tony Szu Hsien Lee, Pau Chung Chen, Chiang Shan R. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Substance misuse is associated with cognitive dysfunction. We used a stop signal task to examine deficits in cognitive control in individuals with opioid dependence (OD). We examined how response inhibition and post-error slowing are compromised and whether methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), abstinence duration, and psychiatric comorbidity are related to these measures in individuals with OD. Methods: Two-hundred-and-sixty-four men with OD who were incarcerated at a detention center and abstinent for up to 2 months (n = 108) or at a correctional facility and abstinent for approximately 6 months (n = 156), 65 OD men under MMT at a psychiatric clinic, and 64 age and education matched healthy control (HC) participants were assessed. We computed the stop signal reaction time (SSRT) to index the capacity of response inhibition and post-error slowing (PES) to represent errorrelated behavioral adjustment, as in our previous work. We examined group effects with analyses of variance and covariance analyses, followed by planned comparisons. Specifically, we compared OD and HC participants to examine the effects of opioid dependence and MMT and compared OD sub-groups to examine the effects of abstinence duration and psychiatric comorbidity. Results: The SSRT was significantly prolonged in OD but not MMT individuals, as compared to HC. The extent of post-error slowing diminished in OD and MMT, as compared to HC (trend; p = 0.061), and there was no difference between the OD and MMT groups. Individuals in longer abstinence were no less impaired in these measures. Furthermore, these results remained when psychiatric comorbidities including misuse of other substances were accounted for. Conclusions: Methadone treatment appears to be associated with relatively intact cognitive control in opioid dependent individuals. MMT may facilitate public health by augmenting cognitive control and thereby mitigating risky behaviors in heroin addicts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere94589
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr 11

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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