Open-Label Placebo Improved Outcomes in Opioid Use Disorder

Study showed placebo increased retention, improved sleep even when participants knew they were taking placebo

Photo of multicolored pills on a blue background
Image: Aleksei Bezrukov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In 2021, more than 100,000 deaths from opioid overdoses were reported, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Methadone treatment remains one of the most reliable means of treating opioid use disorder, with success rates reportedly ranging from 60 to 90 percent for patients who stick with the long-term regimen. Adherence, though, remains a challenge.

Get more HMS news here

In a novel randomized clinical trial published by Harvard Medical School researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the University of Maryland in JAMA Network Open, senior author Ted Kaptchuk, HMS professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess; lead author Annabelle Belcher, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine; and colleagues tested whether using open-label placebo, or informing study participants that they were taking a placebo with their methadone, could increase the efficacy of methadone treatment for people undergoing care for opioid use disorder.