Original Article| Volume 23, ISSUE 5, P616-624, October 2022

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Pain, Opioid Withdrawal, and Related Symptoms: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Published:April 04, 2022DOI:


      • Non-pharmacologic innovations are needed to address poorly managed pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms.
      • Two consecutive days of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in 90 minute sessions showed promising trends in improving pain, drug craving, and reported withdrawal symptoms compared to a sham condition.
      • The sham condition was sufficiently believable and can be used in a future fully-powered trial.



      Pain, drug cravings, and opioid withdrawal symptoms can interfere with substance use disorder or opioid tapering treatment goals.


      This pilot study investigated the feasibility of a protocol designed to test opioid withdrawal symptom relief relative to a sham condition after two consecutive days of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for adults prescribed daily methadone for opioid use disorder.


      Using a double-blind protocol, eight adults were randomized to receive either a full 90-minute HBOT dose in a pressurized chamber with 100% oxygen at 2.0 atmospheres absolute (ATA) or a sham condition receiving 21% oxygen (equivalent to room air within the chamber) at a minimal pressure of ≤1.3 ATA. Measures included study retention, treatment satisfaction, and pre- and post-intervention effects for opioid withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings, pain intensity and interference, sleep quality, and mood.


      Study retention and treatment satisfaction was high. All measurements improved more, on average, for participants receiving full-dose HBOT treatment than among participants receiving sham treatments except for clinically observed withdrawal symptoms. The largest positive effects were observed in measurements of pain intensity and drug craving.


      These pilot results provide evidence to support a fully powered study of HBOT as a potential treatment adjunct for adults receiving methadone for opioid use disorder. Trends towards symptom improvements were detected from pre- to post-HBOT in the full treatment arm versus sham condition. More research into novel non-pharmacologic options to relieve distressing symptoms related to pain and opioid use disorder is essential to improve clinical outcomes.


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