Background: Patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) show memory deficiencies and impaired treatment outcomes. Emerging evidence suggests that opioid abuse activates proinflammatory processes by increasing cytokine production and impairing neuroprotection, which damages the memory function in OUD patients. Therefore, we investigated whether plasma-based inflammatory and neurotrophic markers correlate with memory function in OUD patients. Method: OUD patients undergoing methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) were investigated and followed up for 12 weeks. Plasma tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, and Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) scores were assessed at baseline and after 12 weeks of MMT. Multiple linear regressions and generalized estimating equations (GEEs) were used to examine the correlation between cytokines and memory performance. Results: We enrolled 89 patients at baseline; 47 patients completed the end-of-study assessments. Although Pearson correlations showed that CRP and TGF-β1 levels were significantly, negatively associated with some memory indices, the results were not significant after correction. The GEE results, controlled for several confounding factors and multiple testing, showed that changes in TNF-α levels were negatively correlated with changes in the visual memory index (P = 0.01), and that changes in IL-6 levels were negatively correlated with changes in the verbal memory index (P = 0.009). Conclusion: Memory performance, TNF-α and IL-6 levels in OUD patients were negative correlated. Additional studies on regulating TNF-α and IL-6 expression to improve memory function in OUD patients might be warranted.
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