Electrocardiogram characteristics of methadone and buprenorphine maintained subjects

Peter Athanasos, Aaron L. Farquharson, Peggy Compton, Peter Psaltis, Justin Hay

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27 Citations (Scopus)


There has been recent concern about the association between high dose methadone and prolongation of QTc in the electrocardiogram. QTc is the time from the beginning of the QRS complex to the end of the T have as measured on an electrocardiogram and corrected for heart rate. To date, no association has been made between methadone and buprenorphine in commonly used doses and prolonged QTc. Electrocardiograms were performed on groups of methadone (n = 35, mean daily dose standard deviation, 69 29 mg) and buprenorphine (n = 19, mean daily dose 11 5 mg) subjects and a group of non-opioid dependent controls (n = 17). Mean QTc did not differ (p = 0.45) between methadone, buprenorphine, or controls. Methadone subjects were significantly (odds ratio of 7.8) more likely to have U waves than buprenorphine and controls combined. Methadone subjects with U waves were maintained on higher (p = 0.004) doses (89 29 mg/day) than methadone subjects without U waves (60 24 mg/day). Methadone subjects taking 60 mg and above had higher (p = 0.02) QTc (405 29 milliseconds) than methadone subjects taking less than 60 mg per day (381 27 milliseconds). Although an association is thought to exist between high methadone doses and elongated QTc, methadone and buprenorphine, at commonly used daily doses, remain safe agents for opioid substitution therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-35
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Addictive Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 12 Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Buprenorphine
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Elongated QTc
  • Methadone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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